More details on this to come...
The bad part of the week was that I didn't take pictures of as many things as I usually do. Monday evening, my cousin (actually first cousin, once removed, is that right?), Rikker, and his wife, Kao, came over for dinner. It seems so crazy to actually have family here in Bangkok, but we were so grateful that they would come over and visit! I attended Rikker and Kao's wedding, but hadn't seen them since, so this was a treat for us. It was so fun to visit, especially when they know SO much about the ins and outs of Bangkok, which are endless. They will be here for 6-7 months, but we hope much longer!
For the last few weeks, I have been researching schools for Jack to attend starting next month. They take schooling here very seriously, particularly in the expat community. It is common for one year of an 8 year old's schooling to cost more than Jeff's entire University education. I find this a little excessive, but admire the dedication to education. I visited 7 schools, and chose one that I was particularly impressed with and felt would fit Jack well. They invited him to do a “trial day” on Tuesday, so this was big for all of us.
Jack was THRILLED to go to school, but I, on the other hand, hardly knew what to do with only ONE kid! Janie and I went and dropped Jack off at 8:30am, and had the whole morning to ourselves. Jack didn't hesitate about me leaving for even a second, which I was 99% excited about. Janie and I had fun putting together puzzles, reading books, shooting hoops, and taking naps (okay, maybe that was just Jane). I was SO excited to pick him up after school, and even got to talk to another parent who has been very happy there. Several of the teachers came up to ask what school he has attended before. It's very unusual that a four year old hasn't been going to school for at least one year, most have started at two! I was happy that he felt at home there, and made some good friends. We are starting the paperwork, and Jack will start going every day, 8:30-12:30, the week of his 4th birthday (April 25th). Every day seems like a lot, but there isn't one school here that doesn't require 4 year olds to attend every day. I was just glad I found one that gave me the option to go half-day, that was unusual! Like I said, they take it very seriously! Have to get ready for those prep-schools, right? I just hope Jack can have a good experience, and enjoy seeing English-speaking friends every day.
We had a fun play date Wednesday morning with a woman, Anna, I met at a play place at the mall. She is from Sweden and has been living in Bangkok for roughly a year. She has a 2 year old, and is expecting her second in 2 months. We had a great time playing with the kids, visiting at her apartment, not too far from here. It was nice to meet someone else wonderful from Sweden (like the Norins, are they all like that?), and also visit with another mom that speaks perfect English!
Thursday, Jack's friends came over to play. They were all on our bed chanting “3 little monkeys” for at least 15 minutes. I loved it!
This might seem silly to all of you who have friends across the street, or 2 houses down, but one of the highlights of my week was meeting 2 people in my building who speak English! One is a woman from New Jersey who is expecting in September. The other is a Japanese woman who stays at home (can you believe that?) with her daughter who just turned three. Her daughter did just start school, but it's SO nice to meet another stay-at-home mom! It was a treat to be able to visit with someone in English in my very own building! That's 3 new friends (counting Anna from Sweden) in one week who are moms and they speak English. It's a record. What a blessing!
So, on to the weekend! We left early Saturday morning to meet up with Anutra, Bird, and Bird's brother, Boy. (This is in front of their home, about 30 min. out of the city). We were off to Sattahip, a city 2 hours out of Bangkok and right on the shore! We were SO excited for a change of pace from the city life. It was our first time out of the city for more than a few hours, and we were excited to take some deep breathes in the clean, salty air! They were so nice to invite us to stay with them on a Navy base in Sattahip because they have a connection through their friend who is currently an officer in the Navy. So, we got super cheap accommodations, and first class tour guides!
The roughest part, no doubt, was getting there and back. Bird drives a medium sized pick-up and we fit all seven of us in there. Yes, seven! It was not comfortable at all, but we endured it because we love being with our friends, and it was a great way to see things that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to see. There's no way we could have gone to a place like this on our own. There's no public transportation, and we would have had one heck of a time communicating! Going with Thais is the only way to venture off the beaten path like this. We loved it. We really prefer not to always be in the main touristy areas because we like to see where real people in Thailand spend their time, and how they live. The resorts are not geared towards Thais because they are relatively very expensive. Although, we might still have to try one out, just once, before we leave.
So, we spent both afternoons at the beautiful beach in the wonderfully warm water and amazing sand! A couple of observations while we were there: I didn't seen even one woman in just a bathing suit. Everyone was wearing clothing instead of swimsuits, or at least on top of their swimming suits. So, we did too! I would have stood out even more if I would have just been in my swimsuit and shorts! In all the hours we were there, I counted three other foreigners. All three were wearing speedos with HUGE beer bellies. Jeff said it was officially 3 ½ because of the size of one of them. We noticed that people at this beach actually swim! Anutra thought it was crazy when I told her that a lot of people go to the beach simply to sunbathe. Everyone here is either in the water, or the shade. Many had long sleeves or long pants to cover their skin from the sun. I loved that people of all ages were playing in the water like (and with) their kids! Anutra, Bird, and Boy all ran into the water as soon as possible and just played! It was great!
Jack and Janie loved the beach. I think they would love it if we went everyday. Janie mostly loved the water, and Jack mostly loved the sand. So, they were both happy! We hope to head back to the beach in the next month, or maybe for my birthday! It was beautiful!
Saturday night, we went to the Temple to worship in honor of Makha Bucha day, the reason we had a 3 day holiday. Anutra and Bird taught us what to do as we held our Lotus flower, incense, and candle and walked around the temple 3 times. The three times around, as well as the 3 sticks of incense symbolize Buddha, the Tribidal (their scripture, containing words of Buddha), and the monks. Very interesting.
After our walk around the temple, we went to the market for dinner. We found a vendor that serves a favorite dish of the kids, so we planted ourselves there. We ordered way too much because Janie didn't eat much, and Jack laid his head down on the table and fell completely asleep while eating his first bites of chicken!
Think we did a little much this day?
This type of vendor is very common here, and we eat this dish regularly. It is called Khaaw men gai, and is boiled or fried chicken over rice cooked in broth with a yummy soup. Very delicious and kid friendly.
We walked around the market place for a while during the day and had fun looking at all the shops. We found a shop with silly toys and Anutra bought this for Jack. He would blow something and the side things would pop out. She spoils my kids regularly with things they love, but I would never buy them, so it's a pretty good arrangement. We were quite the parade walking down those streets, being so white! Janie and Jack must be SO tired of greeting in Thai, although I have to admit, Janie continues to get cuter and cuter every time she wais. The attention is well-deserved!
We walked out onto this pier to look at these boats that Bird worked on years ago. He attended the Navy academy, and has since been working for the Marine police. Jack loved the boats, but unfortunately they were all locked because of the holiday weekend! Bird and Anutra are hilarious together. They are like a couple of kids... but forty. I love it. Isn't that water just beautiful?
We spent a lot of time just relaxing in our rooms, and we all loved this. The kids had a chance to unwind, so they could be ready for our next adventure. Jack and Jeff also enjoyed practicing with Jack's slingshot and going on "lizard finding expeditions" as Jack calls them. They would find several every time, mostly right there in the lobby! These little lizards are everywhere. We've even had some in our bedroom at home, 15 stories up! From what we hear, it doesn't matter where you live, you will have lizards! They are pretty innocent, so it's usually just exciting when we spot one on the draperies!
I was so impressed at what was available at this beach to rent! You could rent beach mats, kayaks, or pay 50 Baht for a ride on this thing behind the boat. Anutra is such an adventurer and was excited to get us all in there! We were all going to go, except Jeff and Janie, but the driver was worried about Jack, so he and I ended up in the boat instead. But, after seeing how rough the water was, we were glad we weren't out there!
It was so fun to be with Anutra, Bird, and Boy and just to get away from normal life for a while. They were so great to expose us to new things, and of course, Anutra taught us new Thai words every chance she got. The problem is remembering them all! We feel so blessed to have found friends who have taken us in and showed us how real Thais live! We loved seeing their home, and Anutra's mother's home on the way back. We loved eating Thai food everyday, for every meal (even breakfast!), in Thai style. I certainly couldn't keep that up though, Thais eat a LOT! But, I can see why, the food is fantastic! We are having a hard time knowing how to ever pay people like them back for what they share with us! I can only hope that someday they will come and visit us in the States and we can show them how Americans live!
I apologize for this blog entry and how thrown together it must feel. I didn't have the time I usually do to organize my thoughts. Hopefully next week!