25 November 2006

Hospitals, Motorcycles, Visas, and Thanksgiving!

We have had some new adventures this week, and we've learned a lot! We have had 2 trips to the hospital, one death defying motorcycle ride, a day at the biggest market in the world, a small miracle, and a wonderful holiday!

So, let's start with the hospital visits! We have heard wonderful things about the hospitals in Bangkok, and everything we have heard about has been true so far, and better! I went in to see a doctor about the lump I've had in my breast for almost a year. I needed to wait until I was done nursing before getting it taken out, and Jane is now done. (She went at her own pace, but it was a piece of cake!) Anyway, so I just called a hospital and made an appointment and told them why. The first doctor I saw was a breast surgeon. That was awesome. It was so nice to not have to go through several doctors and referrals to get to the doctor I already knew I needed to see. Anyway, to make a long story short (and especially for those of you who didn't know I had a lump), he concluded,like everyone else, that it was non-threatening and just wants to watch it. He was great. The service there was very professional and like everyone here, they went the extra mile in helping me understand my new insurance, scheduling my next appointments (showing me exactly where to go), and even seeing me to a taxi. I made my next appointment for Thursday morning (yes, Thanksgiving) because I knew Jeff would be home. I needed to get my TSH levels checked for my Thyroid issue because my medication hasn't been adjusted since the initial diagnosis. I know, I sound like I am 80 years old with medications and lumps. It's really kind of ridiculous.

Well, to make a long story short, Thursday morning was also supposed to be when we did our work visa stuff and we HAD to do it at this exact time. It was very intricatly planned for Jeff and I to meet up at this place to get the paperwork done. But, I forgot the map to get to a very new and remote location. Thanks to an amazing staff at the hospital, me knowing Jeff's email account info., and a very patient taxi driver, Jack and I made it in time to meet up with Jeff and Jane. It was a very stressful and emotional morning, but I was on the verge of tears for the rest of the day just thinking about how grateful I was to be in a country like Thailand. I can't imagine anywhere else that would spring into action like that customer service desk did for me when I came in crying (and completely stressed out) because I couldn't reach Jeff and I was going to miss this VERY improtant meeting! I was SO touched by their sincere concern and willingness to help me solve it. Amazing!

Thursday night was spent at a home of the first conselor in our bishopric. Our branch got changed to a ward last Sunday, which was very exciting news for everybody! There were several missionaries, some couples from the ward, a couple they had met on the bus(?), and our little family (including Dave). It was so nice to have a very traditional Thanksgiving meal and spend time with some of our ward family. This family lives only a few sois over from where our home will be after the new year. We are excited to have members so close, especially people we already love!

This picture is of Jack getting stuck in the chair at the Anderson's. Brother Anderson had to get out his screwdriver to get him out. We thought it was pretty hilarious. Luckily, so did Jack. His favorite part was that Bro. Anderson let him use his screwdriver to put it back together. Jack was loving his new friend.

Jack's first day of "school" with his friends Cyrus and Narissa. He had a GREAT time making a turkey out of his handprints, and making macaroni necklaces. He's been singing "Where is Thumb man?" ever since. He loves having little friends to play with regularly again. And I love their moms, so it all works out! I love the way Jane is looking at him in the second one. Aren't they cute?

We found the local library here and it is darling! You have to pay for a membership, but it will be completely worth it! They had great puzzles and games in the children's area. Jack was in heaven with all the new books! We will start making this a weekly trip! We are excited to take Jeff!

We stopped to get ice cream cones at KFC on the way home the other night. We got Jane her very own cone and actually had them put a little ice cream in it and she was in heaven! This is actually her "posing" for the picture. She did this as soon as I pointed the camera her way! Janie is learning more and more words and signs everyday, and I love it. Learning to talk (and sign) is my favorite developmental stage. She is discovering how much she is really capable of! She even said her first Thai word this week: "gai" (with a downward tone). It means chicken, one of her and Jack's favorites. Our favorite meal for the kids is "kaaw meng gai" (spelling, I have no idea). It is a rice, chicken, and soup dish. We can get enough for the entire family for about 50 baht (just over a dollar). Jack and Jane can't get enough of it.

We spent Friday at the zoo again. It is so big, we still didn't see much. Especially because it rained for a long time! We were stuck in the reptile caves with about 200 school kids! We were looking at the cool snakes, lizards, etc. when I noticed that all the kids around Jack weren't looking at the Anaconda behind the glass, they were looking at Jack! They all played with him and Jane for about 30 min. until it let up enough for us to go out again. It was a little overwhelming at times, but Jack loved the attenion, and the kids loved practicing their english on us. They were so sweet.

Friday night was Jeff's work party, and yes, a party in every sense of the word! Lots of games, a ferris wheel, live bands, costumes, balloons, and lots and lots of beer. They actually said over the speaker "we want you to all have a great time and get very, very drunk!" We knew it wasn't geared for kids, so we had a great time and left at bedtime! I loved finally being able to meet the people I've heard so much about. He is very blessed to be working with such great people. I look forward to getting to know them better.

Speaking of Jeff's work, he wore his "geek" shirt the other day. (If you look in the picture of Jane with the ice cream, you can see it.) One of his coworkers asked him if it said "jeek". He said "no, geek". Everyone laughed, and one of them explained that "geek" is a Thai word for a man who has a girlfriend, but also has many... not girlfriends. Opposites? Maybe a little. Jeff did his best to describe what a "geek" is in our culture, but it doesn't really translate. Jeff is proud to be a geek (in english), even if that might have been a negative thing to be in the past. Being part of the IT field was never a negative thing here. It is considered a "very, very good job" (people we meet on the streets say this to us all the time), and it is!

Saturday, I went with my friend, Som, to the Chatuchak weekend market (sorry, I forgot my camera!). Jeff was awesome, as always, and took the kids to the park, a marathon expo, and got lunch and put them down for naps. What a guy! Jeff and the kids were much happier doing this than being with me! Som and I spent about 3 1/2 hours wandering through the market (and saw maybe 1/8 of it) and got some great Christmas shopping done! Som says she's not a shopper, but we sure had a GREAT time trying to haggle with the salesman and get some good deals! I'm sure we paid more for some things than others, but we got some great deals, had a good time, and learned a LOT! I think we'll get better at it as we go. After the market, we went to one other store and I found the perfect gift that "santa" has really been wanting to bring Jane this year. It was big and very heavy, but I thought "no problem, we're just going to catch a taxi as soon as we get out of here". Nope. After walking a ways, then over several walkways, and getting turned down by 3-4 taxis (because the traffic was bad by my home), we decided to just take the train again. It was another long walk, lots of stairs, and another taxi, but I made it! I was very happy to be home, and also happy to have Jeff tell me that it really was heavy, I'm not just a wimp!

So, what part does a motorcycle ride play in all of this? (Don't strain your eyes trying to find me in this picture, I didn't get a picture of it. This is one from the internet.) Well, getting places in this city is either very convenient or ridiculous. Tuesday night, on the way to the hospital, it was ridiculous. After sitting in a cab for over 30 minutes (and only going 2km), I decided I needed to just hop on one of these motorcycle taxis that had been whizzing by me! I hopped out of the taxi in the middle of the street and caught at motorcycle. They are all over and wear orange vests to identify themselves. He gave me a price and I hopped on. Think of everything you've seen in the movies of motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic, going on the wrong side of the road, maybe even on sidewalks. Well, that is what these guys do. They get you where you want to go, fast! That's what I wanted, so I put on the helmet and went for it. I decided not to try side saddle like I've seen some women do, maybe next time. He got me there VERY fast and almost on time. Several times I looked over at the others using this same mode of transportation but they had an infant or toddler in thier arms. I can't believe they do it, but they do. As much as I love motorcycles, I was very grateful that this driver was more cautions than some I've seen. Wrong side of the road, almost bumping my knees on cars, and fitting into lanes next to busses, yes, but I never felt afraid. That's a skillful driver, right?

Well, what have we learned this week? Don't forget maps, always carry an umbrella, don't buy heavy things on Saturdays, and if you are in a hurry, take a motorcycle taxi! And more lessons to come, I'm sure.

19 November 2006

Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm

Visiting the Crocodile Farm was INCREDIBLE! Jeff and I kept looking at each other and saying "this is awesome". I won't give all the details, in hopes that you will just think "we just have to go visit and see it for ourselves", because that is completely true! But, if you have questions about anything that I tell you about, please ask. I could go on for hours about everything we saw! As you are looking at the pictures, see if you can notice how HOT we were! We were sweating before we even got into the park! It was by far the hottest day we have experienced! I'm pretty sure I will shave Jack's head in hopes to keep him a little cooler.

We saw the elephant show almost very first. The elephants were very well trained and looked really happy. Maybe that's just how elephants look? We started loving elephants immediately after we moved here, but after seeing this, we are now their biggest fans! This elephant actually ate the crackers right out of Jane and Jack's hands! They were so gentle and graceful. Just a beautiful animal! They let people walk under the elephants after the show was over, and we got our picture taken with this one.
Then, we walked over and found that we could RIDE a elephant for just 50 Baht (just over $1) a piece for Jeff and I. We were in heaven! Here's Jeff feeding duck to the crocodiles. There were so many, and it was awesome to watch how they can/can't maneuver their mouths to get the food.

This place erased anything Jack learned from Curious George about "don't feed the animals", we fed everything! For about 10 baht (25 cents), we could buy food to feed the turtles, crocodiles, goats, elephants, and the hungry, hungry hippos. We loved the hippos.
The crocodile show was really something else. These two guys just kept pulling the crocodiles up by their tails onto the "stage" and you could hear the crocodile's jaws snap shut. It was pretty cool, but I think animal rights activists would go crazy. But, these guys put on a good show, and people were just throwing money at them throughout. Jack got pretty tense when they were sticking their hands and faces in their jaws, so we left a little early.

On our way out, we stopped at this monkey that was just swinging on a wire tied between some trees. If you don't know, Jeff is a BIG fan of monkeys. I think this is hilarious.
We thought this sign was pretty funny. It was my fault that we didn't get a very good shot of Jeff "looking for his glasses". What a nut. This monkey particularly liked Jeff's crackers. He was very friendly, a little too friendly for Jack.

All in all, it was an amazing day! We saw so many new things, which I always love. This place isn't the newest, cleanest, or best smelling place, but it certainly made for an adventurous day! Come and visit, and we will take you for your first elephant ride!

First time for everything...

We had a wonderful week, and as the title suggests, we had several firsts. Me, in particular. I always like to try new things, but occasionally I find that some things are better to just do that one time! All in all, it was quite an adventure!

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and FHE with some new friends, the Selways, on Monday night. We now have friends in the city that we can swap babysitting with and Som (the Mom) and I got to talk about doing a little preschool for Jack, Cyrus (her youngest), and Jack's other little friend, Narissa. The three Moms are all very excited to have something organized together, and the kids are excited to play twice a week! Everyone's happy!

Tuesday, Som and I took the kids to the Dusit Zoo here in Bangkok for our first time. It was not extremely far by Taxi and in the 2 hours we were there, we didn't even begin to see what was available! We spent a lot of time in the reptile cave. I normally get pretty bored with things behind glass, but these snakes and such were actually moving around! They were so fascinating! We will definitely do this one again.

This is Jack and Cyrus at Dusit Zoo in front of some of the Crocodiles.

So, one of MY firsts, was attending a Step class in Thai. I discovered that they offer classes here in our complex in the evenings, so I was excited to try one out. I attended step and multi-step classes for the last few months before leaving the states, so I wouldn't say I am completely inexperienced. So, I thought I'd be fine, maybe a little behind, but oh well. About 5 minutes into the class, I realized I was in WAY over my head! The guy came in and started things up and all of a sudden, I felt like I had walked into the LAST 5 minutes of a class where everyone had learned the sequences already and was going through them at double the tempo. It seemed like a mix of the step I am used to, with ballroom, hip-hop, and skateboarding tricks mixed in. It was hilarious. Luckily, there was a Canadian lady in there who was just as lost as me! We laughed our way through the entire hour and had a great chat afterward. The whole point is just to get a work out anyway, right? Well, mission accomplished. But, I think I'll wait a while before trying another class in Thai.

My other firsts were going shopping on my own in the city, which I loved, and getting a pedicure! Jeff was nice enough to take the kids Friday night and let me get some things done, so after I bought was I set out to buy, I decided to stop at one of the hundreds of massage parlors here and get my first pedicure. Whoever comes to visit, we will try one of these together! It felt great to sit and read a magazine and still be getting something done. Well, kind of.

Friday night before my night out, we ate at a great Japanese restaurant in Jeff's office building. The kids loved it because they have room under the table to put your feet, even though you are supposed to be sitting "on the floor". I don't know if that makes sense. Anyway, Jack loves to use chopsticks for screwdrivers, but this particular night, he refused to use anything else to eat as well. I think he went home a little hungry. We will definitely eat at this place again, the service was fantastic. I don't think we ever needed anything, and the waitresses pretty much watched the kids while Jeff and I finished eating!

Jack and Janie have always loved each other, but since Janie is now getting to be older, they have even more fun together! They are the best of friends. THIS is why I love having two kids! The pool is one of our favorite things to do together.

They are both getting to be quite comfortable with the water. Jane dove in the other day, all by herself! Even after I grabbed her, it didn't really phase her. She doesn't quite get that it can be scary sometimes too.

They also love to play on the stroller. This particular day, they wanted to switch seats. This isn't the best picture, but Janie was laughing SO hard. She thought she was HILARIOUS, and she is. She's like her mom in that when she smiles really big, her big cheeks cover up her eyes!

Jane is getting to be quite the talker now. She learned "down, go, all done, stop" this week. She is really starting to sign more now too. This week she did "go, stop, help, cereal, and cold" for the first time. She is walking more and more each day. I'm excited for the day when she crosses the line from majority crawling, to majority walking. She is just a little angel. She continues to amaze us with how well she does when we go out. She is happy and content and charms everyone she meets!

Our biggest adventure of the week was our first trip to the Crocodile Farm. It was where we got to do a lot of things we heard about before we came here that we thought "we HAVE to do that". It was QUITE a day. So, if you are interested, read on!

12 November 2006

Reality HITS!

So, this week was great, but started off a little rough! Monday was Jeff's first day at work and mine too! I hadn't done the Bangkok thing with the kids and without Jeff yet, so this was a big day for everybody. We made it through that first day, and the rest of the week went really well. Like I mentioned before, I found an awesome grocery store that I got to introduce Jeff and Dave to last night. I spent a morning at a study group with women in the ward which I loved. It was weird to sit down with women that I had so much in common with. No language barrier, and we were talking about the gospel. It was awesome. One of the sisters heard that we didn't have our stuff yet and sent me home from the study group with a big box of duplo legos. We have played with those things for hours!

I've met some sweet sisters that live in the city that I am anxious to get to know better. At church today, we were invited to dinner and Family Home Evening Monday night by a family that doesn't live very far from here and I am excited to meet them (Jeff talked to them). They have a little boy about Jack's age, and Jack is dying for KIDS!

So, Jane decided on Friday that she wanted to start walking. Her body has been ready for a while now, but her mind wasn't convinced. We were down at the pool, and she just picked up a floaty and started walking with it. 12 STEPS! She is as solid as can be! Only problem is, she still doesn't know she is walking! Jeff did get to finally see it again today when she was playing (and not realizing she wasn't crawling). She has also turned into quite a climber! She climbs up on the stroller as high as she can go, or on the tables, couches, etc. We are just trying to teach her how to get down without too many bruises. She loves all the new hiding places in our apartment. She and Jack are often "hiding out" in a new place together. She is also a rice eating machine! We have discovered that she will eat almost anything if it is combined with rice. We sneak in chicken, pork, carrots, eggs, etc. Luckily, there is always a good supply of rice anywhere!

Jack is adjusting very well to our new lifestyle. He loves all the new things. He often says "Mom, that is so cool that the steering wheel is where you sit!" He loves taking taxis and especially loves to be the one to tell them "soi Suan Plu" (our street). The drivers think this is hilarious! Jack has stolen the hearts of all the girls at the front desk. He's got one that asks for a kiss every time we see her and he gets so shy (she is very beautiful!). He often says "I just want to hug them all!", referring to the staff. They all know the kids' names and often help them in/out of cabs, let them play behind the counter, give them things, etc. I agree with Jack completely that I want to just hug them all! They are worth a million bucks!

My favorite thing to do with Jack lately is reading together. We quickly finished the book we bought for the plane trip, and after starting it over, decided we deserved another book! We found a great bookstore here and bought a copy of "James and the Giant Peach". He loves it! We are almost halfway through it and we just bought it Friday. I've never seen him sit so still for so long in his whole life! It is a fun time for just the two of us.

Jeff had a pretty crazy week at work with just getting situated and starting training and what not. He's not accustomed to spending most of his day doing presentations, but it sounds like it is going well. He worked 10-11 hour days this week, but we are both planning on it leveling out once things get rolling. Luckily, he is not very far from the office, so the travel is quick! To say the least, we are all VERY excited for him to be home at night!

We spent Saturday at the "Jim Thompson Museum" which we all really enjoyed. Jim Thompson was the American who started the silk industry here in Thailand. The museum has some very interesting facts of his life, work, and disappearance. We learned a lot, but the whole "please do not touch anything" part was a little hard for Jack. Here's us in front of part of the house. The gardens were amazing!

After the tour, the employees gave the kids the most amazing origami creations I've ever seen! See if you can pick out the elephant, turtle, peacock, frog, bird, or rabbit. Jack was in heaven.

The kids loved just playing around on the grounds and I thought this was a cute one of them together.

This has been a common occurance since we moved here. I think I counted 5 different people that took pictures of Jane while we were at the museum. I figured it would be okay to take a picture of her if she was taking a picture of my little girl.

There are a lot of very interesting things here in Thailand that we have noticed. I think we are just getting used to a lot of them, but this is one Jack brings to my attention daily. I had him convinced for a whole week that the sprayers were only for the "fireman", but somehow he realized that wasn't the primary purpose. He is good to not spray it unless I tell him it's okay. I have been amazed at his self-control!

Overall, it has been a good week, and we continue to enjoy our new life in Thailand!

07 November 2006

Getting settled

I know we are just loads of fun, but I had such a good day today, I thought I would share why! I spent the morning with a friend from church who actually has a car! She picked us up with her two girls and we went to the most amazing grocery store called Carrefour (pronounced ka-foo, I guess it's French). Anyway, it almost felt like a Sam's club, except everything was still in very small portions. I'm used to buying a huge BOX of wipes that lasts me months, but here you just buy one small package. Everytime I go into the cereal isle I feel like I am in the Children's museum grocery store where everything is miniaturized. They just don't eat cereal here, they eat rice for breakfast! I'm a cereal fanatic, so that is hard to understand. So, I bought a lot of groceries, including dinner (cost 30 baht)from a little food counter in the store, and the best part is, if you spend at least $25 worth on groceries, they will deliver it for you, free! Mary Jane worked it all out with customer service (she speaks fluent Thai, which is also how she talked her way out of getting pulled over on our way home!), and my groceries were on their way! We stopped at the food court for lunch on our way out and had a great Thai dish for only 25 Baht each (about 65 cents). My groceries got to the apartment before me and I couldn't wait to put them in the cupboard. So, here's the picture of my cupboard which actually has food in it!

This is Jack with his new friend, Narissa. They are a year apart, but sure had a blast. She is more reserved, so Jack went into full performance mode for her. She thought he was hilarious. They were holding hands and giggling in no time! I can't believe they both squeezed into this shopping cart car designed for just one! Luckily, they are both pretty small!

We haven't quite figured out the laundry thing yet. The washing facilities here are surprisingly awful. The dryers don't work and are very expensive, so we now do things like the Japanese. We don't need a dryer! We wash them and hang them all over the place! I think most everybody here just sends their clothes out to be done, but I am just too cheap!

05 November 2006

Our first week

This was the best part of the whole trip! The flight attendants really do make or break the trip, and these girls made it amazing! Jack was in heaven. They thought everything he did was wonderful and he got whatever he wanted! Who wouldn't love that?

Our apartment complex has a small play area for the kids. We haven't really seen any other kids there, but Jack and Janie have sure enjoyed it! Notice the beautiful greenery on the grounds. It is like this everywhere, and is beautiful!

We celebrated our Halloween a little differently this year. We were VERY jet-lagged and not sure what was available for kids that would start early enough. We rode the skytrain to a GIGANTIC mall called the Siam Paragon where we looked around and got dinner. Very ritzy place! Not a place I would imagine the average Thai would shop! I have "mom guilt" that we didn't do trick-or-treating, but the kids had a great time and I think we were in bed by 8pm, completely exhausted! So, this is Jane enjoying dinner in the stroller.

We spent a morning at the Children's museum right here in Bangkok. It was very old and kind of run down, but the kids had a great time! This is Jack in a huge bubble, which he was very hesitant to get into. I think he thought he would go under water or something. When we went to pay, they asked if we were tourists. We told them we lived in Bangkok and they let us all in for only 190 Baht (less than $5). Just a little cheaper than the new Children's museum at the gateway, which we highly recommend.

Jack as a fireman at the Children's museum. There were very few people there, so he and Jane pretty much had free reign!

We spent an evening playing in Lumpini Park, which is across from where Jeff's office is. We were walking home around 6pm and got to see all the aerobics classes that go on there. People literally just set down all their shopping bags, purses, etc., and join in. The instructor is up on a platform so hundreds of people can follow along. There were several classes throughout the park, all very well attended. We have been very impressed with the Thai commitment to physical fitness. It is just a way of life for them, what good examples they are!

We've loved having access to a beautiful pool and look forward to swims year around! Jack's favorite thing is to be a "mowhawk guy".

Our complex hosted a celebration called Loy Krathong on Friday night. It was a wonderful event with delicious Thai food, dancing, fireworks, games for the kids, and our favorite staff members dressed in these beautiful Thai gowns. Dave is Jeff's coworker that traveled here with us and is staying for a while too. We were glad he wanted to enjoy the festivities as well. Jack loves Dave and asks for him on a daily basis now! We are grateful Dave is such a good sport!

Janie and I with the flowers the girls gave us. Jane doesn't look too excited because she was extremely tired, but we didn't want to miss it! She really did have a good time once she saw the rice!

Jack loved watching them make the Krathongs and he got to put this one in the water all by himself. Okay maybe I helped a little.

These were traditional Thai dancers that entertained at the event. They even got Jeff and Dave out there dancing with them. I should have asked them their secret!

I just realized we hadn't shown any pictures of where we are living. This is just a quick shot of the living area. It is a pretty simple 2-bedroom apartment, but kind of feels like a hotel. We enjoy it, but we know we aren't going to be here permanently, so I guess that is why it feels like a hotel. That, and the maid service, which we aren't complaining about!