10 December 2006

Just a few adjustments...

So, this week was very busy, but great. Jeff's highlights were getting Tuesday off for Jesse's birthday! Okay, maybe it was also the King's birthday, which is also Father's Day here. We spent the day together playing and even celebrated that night by taking Jeff to Outback Steakhouse. Jeff worked very hard all week to prepare for 9-5 training meetings this coming week. He's pretty much amazing. My highlight was getting to rehearse with an orchestra to prepare for a concert on Monday. It felt so good to get my fiddle out again! I couldn't understand the conductor much, but I fit right in when the music begun. Music is amazing that way. I also was successful in finding a Thai nativity scene which was an amazing experience in and of itself. I'll post pictures later. Jack is coming up with new dance moves regularly. He busts a nickel every time we hit the BTS stations or anywhere there is music playing with a good bass. He pretty much draws a crowd wherever we go. Janie is hilarious. This week, she discovered that diving into pillows on the bed is her favorite. Jeff said she was running around in circles and giggling to herself while I was gone one day. I was sad I missed it.

Looking back at my blogs, I realize that I have left out a few of the things that have been adjustments for us since we've arrived in Thailand. Of course, I have focused on all the wonderful, exciting, and adventurous things about our new life because there are so many! We absolutely love it here, but yes, there are a few things that have required some adjustments for us "born and raised" Americans. Just in case you were thinking that everything here is convenient and cheap, think again.

Sidewalks are terrible. They pick up the stones when they need to work under them, and plop them back down however they will fit. Very smart, but it makes the sidewalks the ultimate challenge for walking (unless you are looking down constantly), not to mention strollers. If our stroller lasts us through next year we will both be VERY impressed!

Crossing these busy streets, you either go up stairs and cross and back down the stairs (a challenge with 2 kids and a stroller by myself), or brave the crosswalks where those cars aren't stopping for anything (particularly, the motorcycles). My friend refuses to ever cross streets with her kids.

SO hard to find garbages. So, people just litter without really thinking twice about it. This makes it a challenge to teach Jack that we don't throw our garbage anywhere but in a trashcan, even if it takes us 20 min. to find one.

We are so obviously "farangs" (foreigners), so we always get higher prices on everything. Tuk-tuk drivers won't bargain as low, shops always start higher, and no matter how low you get them, you always walk away saying "was that all an act?". It's just the game. I went to the zoo with my friend who was born in Laos. They charged her 50 Baht to get in, I had to pay 100 Baht. I even told them I lived in Bangkok, she said, "oh...100 Baht", all while smiling at my kids.

Shopping here is on both ends of the spectrum. You can get shirts for less than $2 on the street, or you can shop at one of the Burberry stores in the nicest malls I've ever seen. If you don't buy on the street, you buy in the departments stores where half price is still $40. I'm way too cheap! I met with a tailor and am hoping that will be a good alternative for getting clothes that are tall enough, but it's not as cheap as I had heard. And, some fabrics are really hard to find. Finding a size 10 shoe is an absolute joke!

I chose to take a taxi home the other night with the kids instead of the train and it took me 2 hours longer than it would have. I'm learning that rush hour is every hour except about 10:30-3pm.

Let's talk groceries: bag of chocolate chips- $4, peanut butter- $4.50, pancake syrup-$12, we can't even afford decent cheese. Anything from Teddy Grahams to tampons is hard to find and expensive. We can visit the international market, which is now very close, but it's a lot more expensive. And, we really just want to shop like the Thais do. We are trying to buy things that are made in Thailand, make some things ourselves, and we just aren't buying some things. We are still just getting started on this one, but for now doing most of our normal cooking isn't possible. Not to mention how HOT it makes everything.

Speaking of food, Jeff's been sick this week due to something he ate. We like to try to eat the cheap (and delicious) Thai foods that are available, but are still very cautious about where and what. But, something got to Jeff last Sunday and it's been with him off and on all week. Hard to put our finger on it, but he's even more cautious now.

You have to pay to use the bathrooms in many places.

Getting to a play date takes at least 30 minutes, and these are my friends that live "close".

Janie messed on the floor twice this week. Okay, this doesn't have anything to do with living in Thailand, more to do with a little too much "airing out" time by Mommy. Oops.

Front yard? How about an elevator.

Majority of Jeff's coworkers are single which changes the dynamics just a bit. They have wonderful company parties, but families are not invited. This doesn't affect most of the people there, but for us, this is very different.

Any training we did before we got here for races, general fitness, etc. is obsolete. We feel like we are starting from scratch. You would think being at sea level would be awesome, but the heat dominates. Neither of us has had a long run since we got here. Jeff was running a minimum of 10 km each time during the week, and longer runs on Saturdays. He's just getting to the point where he can run 6km at a time. 6km is the furthest I've run too, and that wasn't even outside. Our bodies just won't go far in this heat. We are doing our best to adjust, but it's sure taking some time.

SO much pollution. Tuk-tuk drivers, motorcycle taxi drivers, and street vendors often wear masks.

Kids start school around 2 here, so during the day, there are very few children at the parks, stores, etc. If kids aren't in school, they are probably home with their nannies.

Jack and Jane are dirty all the time because we are always out and about. It's hard to control sanitation issues when you use so much public transportation. I think I could keep this Japanese wipe business running all by myself. Some things I've had to train myself just not to think about.

Every time we leave home, we sweat. We get where we are going, and cool down. We leave, we sweat. All four of us sweat like never before. This is everyday.

This sweet boy I bought water from (yes, only bottled water here folks. We BUY our water. Count your blessings), was so sweet and said "hello, how are you today?" very well as he handed me the water. I answered back "I'm great, how are you?". He seemed so pleased with himself for using his English which was very good. Then, he said something else and I couldn't understand him. He got so flustered he just said thank you and turned to the next customer. I felt awful. He felt dumb because I couldn't understand his English, when HE was the one that was actually making the effort to speak another language. The language barrier is there, but will hopefully get better as we start lessons this week!

Well, there you have it. Thailand is amazing, beautiful, exciting, lively, and a wonderful place to live. We love it, and wouldn't trade our experiences here for anything. But, you move anywhere, and there are adjustments to be made. We think all the time about what Thais would think if they moved to America. They would have quite the adjustment as well.

One last thing, and don't take this the wrong way. I love journaling our adventure here in Bangkok. I would do this if it was online or not. We thought starting a blog would be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. I've been surprised by some of the people I've heard from that are checking in every once in a while and I love it! But, we'd sure love to hear from more of you! The daily things in your lives are very different than the daily things in our lives. We love to hear about them! You can always leave a comment or even better, send us an email (BIG bonus if you send pictures)! If you are reading this, then just take an extra minute and drop us a line. We love you and miss our family and friends! Have a great week! mindy.hillman@gmail.com


Lee said...

Thanks for the interesting new perspective on Bangkok. After careful consideration I've decided not to come after all...

Just kidding. We can't wait to see you and are anxious to take in the whole experience. Scope out the safe food places and tell the kids we are one month away!

Love, Dad

Anonymous said...

Great article! I understand your feelings because I grew up in China - a third world contury that is very similiar to Thailand. You guys are doing fine. Keep up all the good work! - Yong