This week started with Jeff working late Monday night. Then late on Tuesday night. But, he did make it home in time for our Thai lesson at 7pm, so it could have been worse. I was glad he made it because Anutra brought us a special treat that night. Faa (check out last week's blog if you don't know who she is) and 2 of her friends from school came to play with the kids. Faa was just as excited to see Jack as he was to see her. Janie had a hard day, so she was down at 6:30, but Jack had a late nap this day, so it was nice for him to have the best playmates ever to entertain him (and wear him out) while Jeff and I took turns with Anutra. We could hear the girls and Jack laughing in the play room as they put on puppet shows, built lego towers, and read a LOT of books. Jack was sneaky in taking the camera in there and they had a blast taking loads of pictures. The girls have given Jack a nickname in Thai that to the best of my knowledge is the equivalent of a "ladies man".
Faa is the one on the left, the middle one is Deer, and on the right is Dit. Jeff took this one when he went to make sure Jack was treating the ladies right. Jack absolutely adores Faa and so do we. She came back again on Thursday to play and we hope this continues. We have all fallen in love with her.
Wednesday morning we went to visit the Pakkret Baby home, an orphanage just outside of the city. Last time I was there, I met a woman and her husband who live in the city part-time and they gave us all a ride back in after we left the Baby home. I kept in touch with her, and they were the ones that took us out there that day. I can't say enough nice things about Nancy and Tong. They are some of the warmest people I've ever known. She was a teacher for 30 years, and between the two of them, they have 4 children, so they are very understanding of why their back seat looks the way it does after we are in it! They go and visit a certain baby, Suwanan, several times a week when they are in town, and just love that little girl! I love to see people spending their time doing such good things like this. It's definitely not something that is immediately rewarding, or you get much praise for, but to that little Suwanan, they are making a big difference in her life. We had a fun visit with them to and from the Baby Home and the kids and I had a fun visit with many of the kids of all ages. Jack immediately found the big kids and wanted to go to "school" with them. Jack can't wait to go to school. He's counting down the days.
Jack liked counting in Thai with them because he knows how to do that, but later he told me that the kids weren't being very nice. I asked him what the problem was. He informed me that they wouldn't speak English, only Thai.
As much as I loved Jeff working late those nights, I was very excited for him to meet me and the kids at a reasonable time on Wednesday night at the Paragon for dinner and a visit to Ocean World. The kids and I had a very hectic morning, so it was an extra treat for me to have help with the kids in the evening. Having Grandpa there is always a big bonus too. The kids adore him.
Dad loves aquariums, so we tried to let him go at his own pace. The kids move pretty fast until we get to the playland. This was a pretty typical picture of this night. Dad enjoying all that this fun place has to offer, Jack being a typical 3 year old and changing his focus every 3 seconds, Janie enjoying an entire bucket of carmel corn a Japanese lady gave her, and Jeff being handsome and happy. It was a fun evening together.
If I take the time to do Janie's hair, she has to be entertained by all the things on my bathroom counter. This day, she just loved sitting and standing in the sink and of course, admiring herself in the mirror. Isn't she adorable?
Friday, the kids and I had a free day, so we decided to visit the Children's Museum once again. I love this place.
There are always lots of school kids visiting, which makes me really happy to have blond kids so they are easy to spot. We went and had lunch at a small food court that sells pancakes with pictures of cats on them, crepes, and ice cream. While we were eating, an audience gathered around us. These sweet girls didn't know a lick of English, so they just stood around our table and watched me and the children. I figured that this was probably one of the few times that I knew more Thai than they knew English, so I should use it. I learned their names, how old they were, where they were from, and the name of their school. They asked me where I live, where I'm from, our names, how old we are, and how much my camera cost (I thought that one was odd, but tried my best to put it in Baht). I was feeling a desire to learn a LOT more Thai after this. These girls were perfect to practice on though. Thank goodness I know how to say "what did you say?" They had to repeat things 2-3 times before I understood. Hopefully I'll do better next time because whenever there was a lull in our broken conversation, they just stood very close and watched us eat. It was pretty hilarious.
Friday night, I got to attend a Buddhist funeral with Anutra. It was her Auntie who had passed away, and she thought I would enjoy seeing their customs and meeting her family. She was right. One of the things I found most interesting was that they wait 100 days before actually holding the funeral. Soon after death, they put water on the deceased's hands to represent asking for forgiveness for any hard feelings. The body is stored in a pavilion in the temple that the family pays to rent for the 100 days until the funeral and the cremation ceremony. The ceremony consisted of many different groups of families, all there for their own relative, and all facing different directions toward their pavilion. I got to meet Anutra's parents, brother, and spend more time with Bird, her husband who I think is so sweet. Meeting her family was new to me because I wasn't exactly certain of the protocol on greetings with the Thai Wai, especially as a Farang. They were all very sweet and understanding of my initial awkwardness, and made me feel like I fit right in. They served water and a wonton soup that was quite good. I sat and visited with Anutra and Bird (they were the only ones that I could speak to) while the monks prayed inside (the seating was outside for ours, but we could see inside part of the pavilion). Off and on, we would hold our hands in a reverent wai, but I was surprised to see the conversations continue. This occasion wasn't at all a sad one. People were happy to be together, and I liked this. The more I've thought about it, the more I see the wisdom in the 100 day waiting period. There are many reasons for this, but the one I love is that it is just a time that family can accept what has happened, start getting used to life without them, and say their goodbyes before they are put in the ground (or the sea in this instance). After the 100 days, the body is cremated in another special ceremony that I wasn't able to attend. The ashes are then put in a body of water. I felt so honored that I could attend this event and get a taste of more Thai traditions, but most of all, it was fun just to spend time with Anutra and Bird. They are such a great couple and have become dear friends.
Dad took this amazing picture on his way home from work the other night. I've never seen a family this big all fit on one motorcycle before. Go ahead, count them. I can't believe the picture turned out so well. After well over 1000 pictures on this trip, Dad has turned into quite a photographer!
We all spent Saturday with Jeff and Dad's friends from work visiting the city of Ayutthya, which is the old capitol city of Thailand. There are hundreds of temple ruins throughout the city, but we only visited a few of them. This was one with a huge tower in the middle, and rows of Buddha statues surrounding it. They are all draped in orange robes, like the ones the monks wear here. FYI, the Buddha worshiped in Thailand is a different looking Buddha image than most Americans have probably seen. This Buddha is not the big, fat Buddha, but a tall, slender one who commonly has his hands in different positions, signifying different messages. They are the same Buddha, but at different times of his life, so they look like completely different images. Of course, this is just to the best of my knowledge, so if you know more, please let us all know!
This is everybody. Starting from the right is Nay, me and the kids, Dave at the end, Dad, Pink, Luck, and Luck's husband (I really wish I could remember his name right now because he was great. Sorry!). This was a fun place along the river and they even had a fun playground for the kids! It was a fun outdoor atmosphere, and we enjoyed the luxury of having people there that could order food we would like as well as a few new things. Thai food is delicious.
This is a famous Buddha image located at some of the ruins. I didn't quite get all the details, but from what I could tell, the rest of the Buddha statue is somewhere else on the grounds, but the head remains here, and the tree has surrounded it. There was a guard there watching as people took pictures. He made sure that everyone knelt down in front of it, so as not to put their head above Buddha's head in a picture. I think this is beautiful.
Another beautiful temple, near the ruins, but this was still very much intact. It contained a very large Buddha image inside and lots of people reciting prayers (that's my guess anyway), and shaking sticks in a can. I am hoping to learn more about this soon.
Jane was pretty spent about half way through the day. She woke up early and has had a cold. We were all very impressed with how well she held up with such a busy day!
Does anyone agree that this place looks like Disneyland? Especially if you could hear the happy-go-lucky music that was playing on the speakers throughout the Palace grounds. I just kept waiting for Mary Poppins or Minnie Mouse to come walking by. I feel like this a lot in the parks here. They really know how to landscape here and it always looks freshly manicured.
This was my favorite part of the day, just walking under the trees on these beautiful grounds and enjoying the sculpted animal shrubs, smooth sidewalks, and beautiful buildings. I was surprised to see many of the buildings built to look very European. I asked about this, and discovered that King Rama IV had just visited France when he designed this place. He liked the architecture there (as do I), so he decided to use it as a guide. There is also a building (used as a city hall type of place) that was given as a gift from the Chinese to the King. It is obvious that the style is quite different than the traditional Thai style. Both very intricate and beautiful, but very different. I loved the variation of style all within the Palace walls.
As far as just regular life goes, we definitely feel very blessed. We are seeing so many unique things and meeting some of the most wonderful people ever. On a more personal note, I feel like my challenge this week has been coming to terms with the fact that I will probably not have any English speaking, stay at home mom friends in the building. This probably wouldn't seem like a big deal, but going from having several friends within a one-minute walk in West Jordan, to having my closest friend be 40 minutes away is an adjustment. I realized this week that we've been here for a month and I have yet to meet one. All of the English speakers I've met (all two of them) are working women, so I meet their children on the playgrounds and get to know their nannies really well. The nannies are GREAT, but they are Thai and speak very little English. But, this is actually better than the Japanese mothers who seem to have mostly chosen not to work, because I speak better Thai than Japanese. I have met some extremely nice women here, but if it's not the working thing, it's the language barrier. We realize that we really don't fit in any mold here because we aren't living the rich expat life, we aren't Japanese (like 75% of Exapts here), we are much younger than everyone we've met (besides our friends who are students), I don't work, and neither of our children are in school yet. I'm sorry if it sounds like I am complaining. We really love it here, challenges and all, but the truth is, some days it's hard to be so far away from family and friends. I have hopes that as our building continues to fill up, I might find someone that speaks English that I can relate to with everyday things, but as for now, I will be patient and grateful for the wonderful friends we do have here and at home. So, thank you!
Today, Jeff was sustained as the first Elder's Quorum President in the Bangkok English speaking ward. Turns out they've never had an Elder's Quorum President because they've always been combined with the High Priests because of the size or something. We've had a couple of weeks to get used to this idea, and know that it is our opportunity to give back to this ward. Jeff will be wonderful, as always, and I know he will grow to know and love the people as he serves them. I have always admired his amazing work ethic and his ability to relate to people of all different nationalities, which is exactly what this will be. We love this ward. We have been so touched by the faith and testimonies of its members. The missionary work here is amazing, and people are accepting the gospel at an amazing rate. Last week, 10 brothers and 1 sister were confirmed during our sacrament meeting. Today, a young girl (I think 9), was confirmed. Her parents were baptized just after we arrived. The father was able to join in the confirmation by holding the microphone for the Bishop. He also blessed the Sacrament today for the first time. I didn't know he spoke any English (I think they are from Nepal), so it was so sweet to hear him say the prayer so well. What amazing examples we witness everyday. We feel so blessed to be a part of it.
On a lighter note, I thought I'd finish off with a very typical Jack moment. He spends many hours tying things up using any kind of string or rope. In this instance, it was the vacuum cord. You can see how he's rigged it to the hanger which is attached to the coffee table drawer. Also take note of the underpants. Notice anything? Yes, they are on backwards. 9/10 times they are on backwards, but he definitely doesn't mind, and who am I to complain when he dresses himself so well (usually with more than just underwear, I promise)? Pick your battles, right?