06 May 2007

Normal. Ahhhh.

A lot of good things happened this week, although not a lot of photos until the last few days. This can be a good thing though, if you understand that it means we are starting to have more "normal" days, that don't inspire a lot of picture taking. I enjoy "normal" occasionally.

Jack is still loving school, as expected. He comes home with a new book everyday, and an extra one on the actual library day. He loves his computer class on Fridays, and all the fairy tale stories everything is focused around this month. This week was "Jack and the Beanstalk". So, instead of "run, run, run, as fast as you can, can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!", from last week, we have gotten, "Fee Fi Fo Fum...". He and I finished Matilda the other day and Jeff started reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle with him yesterday. He would read these chapter books all day if we could!

As a side note, an added bonus of Jack being in school has been that I've gotten to know some of the other mothers in the building. Several Japanese mothers meet the bus with their children at the same time every morning. It's been fun to visit with the ones that speak English, and at least greet the ones who don't. I get a bit jealous of the Japanese community that we live in (this part of Bangkok has been called "little Tokyo" by some), because everyone shares the same culture and language, plus, our whole soi is filled with Japanese restaurants, clubs, spas, etc. I feel like by visiting, even just casually, with some of these women, it's helped me to make a dent in understanding my community a little better.

Janie had her first swim class this week, and we had a blast. The swim school just happens to be right around the corner, so it is super convenient, something that doesn't happen too often in this big city. It's 30 min. of songs, toys, games, etc. It took her some time to warm up to a new pool, but it was fun for her to be with other kids her age, and of course, she loves the water. I look forward to Tuesday for another swim session together.

While we are talking about school, I thought I would mention that my Finance class I've been taking online is all done! It wasn't the most demanding class, but actually was the most life-changing class I have had in a long time. I loved it, and in case you were wondering, my grade couldn't have been much better! Yay for school! (Note from Jeff: my genius wife got a 97% in the class. Beautiful and smart. Hide your jealousy, if you can).

We went to Ocean World on Friday and saw the Mermaid dive show again, but this time, it was the big one! Janie was completely enthralled, even during the parts in Thai. As you can see, Jack was a little less enchanted, but still enjoyed it. I'm in love with those cheeks.

Most expats in Bangkok have a driver and a vehicle to get them around the city. Meet my current driver and his vehicle...

Jack was such a good helper Friday on the way to Ocean World. He told me just to bring the small stroller, because he was going to walk. It's a long way for a 4-year old, but he did it and pushed Janie a good part of the way as well. If you could see the sidewalks, you will understand why this is so extraordinary. I loved having my hands free, Janie loved the extra eventful ride, and Jack loved being in charge.

Anybody have a guess at what Jack's doing?

This is Jack's impersonation of a starfish. Nice, eh?

Saturday morning, we met up with Faa and a new friend, Hector, and drove about an hour out of the city to Anutra and Faa's favorite temple. It was a unique temple in that it wasn't ornate like many of the Buddhist temples. It was very simple, basic, with nothing fancy or flashy. Anutra spent two weeks, and Faa 9 days, at this temple last month to study and meditate, so it is very dear to them both. Anutra wanted us to come this particular day to see the ceremony where men become monks. Most Buddhist men spend at least a short time being a monk at some time in their life, so it's a very big part of the culture. It's also a very proud moment for parents, to see their sons become monks. Anutra says that they believe that if your son is a monk, you can hang onto his robes all the way to heaven.

It was held in a big, shady area where a bunch of blue tarps were put down. Families were sitting there visiting and playing while we waited for it to begin. Chickens were roaming free all over the grounds. The kids thought this was great. It felt like a big family picnic.

This is Faa, Hector, Anutra, and Bird. Hector is also employed by Reuters, like Jeff, but the company is so big, they'd never met. He came from Columbia, and is a past student of Anutra who also enjoys experiencing the culture. It was fun to visit with him about Bangkok and all of his travel experiences. The kids really started warming up to him, especially on the way home. We hope to see him again sometime.

These are the men preparing to receive their first set of robes during the morning ceremony. This set is 3 pieces. In the afternoon ceremony, they receive another set which is 5 pieces. Everyone who comes to the temple to meditate and learn wears white (notice Anutra is wearing white above because she was spending the weekend there for the same reason). The monks, leaders, and audience were all chanting/singing something in the Bali/Thai language that their tribidal (their bible) is written in. Then, the leader spoke to them, giving them advice on being a monk and life in general. Very interesting, but I'm sure I would have learned a lot more if I could speak the language!

This is Janie doing what she does best lately: working the crowd. She wanders over to perfect strangers and has them eating out her hand in no time. This scene is not uncommon. We even had a perfect stranger come over to play with her and say, "show friend". He picked her up and took her to show her off to another group. We made sure to keep our eye on her, but she really was in heaven with all the added attention.

Are these curls the cutest things or what? As much as I want to cut her hair, I can't bare to cut these off yet! You can't see the ones around her face in this, but they are adorable.

This was my favorite part of the temple grounds. This was a small walkway that led to a building where people learn to meditate. All these little houses are for individuals who come to meditate at the temple for the weekend. They are tiny. I went to look in Anutra's and it is basically a mat on the floor and a small bathroom. The whole thing isn't even as big as our bed. This whole area was very simple and peaceful. While I don't share the Buddhist's beliefs, I definitely agree with the value of places like this where you can leave the busy life behind, and focus on what really matters.

After the morning ceremony, there was a huge pot-luck feast. There were rows and rows of yummy Thai food. Unfortunately, I don't enjoy the spicy stuff, so it was a challenge finding what I was sure I would be able to enjoy, but what I did find was wonderful. Thais definitely know how to eat. Their food is delicious, and there is always plenty!

Overall, this temple experience was enjoyable, but it made for a very long morning for the kids again! We left around 12:30, but didn't return home until 2pm, so it was a late nap for Jane, but she held out amazingly well! Amongst hundreds of people there, we were the only farangs, which makes us feel extra grateful that we have a friend like Anutra who will expose us to unique experiences such as this.

Today was an exhausting and wonderful Sunday. We had a busy day at church, as usual, then this afternoon, the missionaries came over! We realized that we'd never had missionaries over for dinner, so this was a special treat because we have awesome missionaries in our ward. It was so fun to visit and get to know them each better. We look forward to many more meals and experiences with them!

Starting from the left: Elder Ames, Elder Mortensen, Elder Torrealba, Elder Olsen, Sister and Brother Thevenin. (Jason and Heidi, do you recognize Elder Ames from your Lindon ward? He thought Jeff was Jason when we first met!)

Jeff's looking forward to going out with the missonaries tomorrow (he has the day off, another Thai holiday!), to participate in two appointments with investigators.

We've had rain almost everyday this week, it's been great! It's almost felt like April in Utah! I really needed a little break from the heat, which this temporarily gave. But, after all that moisture, when the sun finally does come out, wow, it feels like a sauna! Even still, the rain is very welcome. I've loved every thunder cloud, lightening bolt, and even the brief power outages we've had. Bring it on.

Until next week...


Esther said...

That is so neat that you get to experience different things about the Thai Culture! Thanks for sharing!

Linda said...

The curls are remiscent of another little girl I once knew, cute! Glad this week settled down a bit. We hope you know how much time we've spent thinking about you on your special days. But of course, with the time change we always remember on your birthdays a day too late for Thai Time. Love, Mom Rich

Heidi said...

We've tried, but we don't recognize Elder Ames at all. I feel horrible! We'll keep trying. We love you!