For the last little while, I've been collecting pictures of some of the people and things we see everyday. Some good, some frustrating, but most... our favorites! Here is a little glimpse of our everyday life in Bangkok. (disclaimer: none of these pictures are great because I hate asking people to pose for pictures, especially people I can't communicate with. Plus, I hate to delay their work, so these pictures were taken quickly so I can still enjoy smiles from these wonderful people I see everyday!)
We have a lady we LOVE to buy dinner from. Her stand is right outside our building, we pass her every single day, and even before we started buying from her, she always greeted us with a big smile! We can buy enough grilled chicken, som tam, and sticky rice to feed the family for about $3. I was chasing the kids at this point, so unfortunately you can't even see her face! But check out that fish, I haven't tried it yet, but when I see people eating it, it looks delicious!
These are two of the people that work the front desk of our building. When we first moved in, they would always rush out to give the kids treats every time we came in or out. The treats ran out, but my kids were now conditioned to expect it, of course! So, once I got Jack and Janie trained to only get one a day, I started supplying the sweets to the desk, so they can go in once a day and get a treat and visit our wonderful staff. It was a good day when I discovered it's much more fun to get one treat from these folks then a handful at home, so this way we are both happy. Less treats for the kids, and less treats in the house. Nice!
My mom asked a while ago if we had a washer and dryer. I told her I would post a picture. This one is taken from our kitchen, looking into the "yard" (which we think it's hilarious that they call it that!) Yes, this is our yard. We have a washer and dryer, a small bathroom and the maid's quarters, which we use for storage (I can't imagine making anyone live in there, but many people do!). Very exciting, I know.
One of my favorite examples of sidewalks. I walked this every single day for months. NOT easy to navigate with a stroller, especially when the foodshops are busy and the vendors are all out. The good news is, this particular stretch has been repaired and is now one of the best. One down, 1000's to go.
This picture is one of the worst, but you have to be out at just the right time of day to catch this, and the fact that they are moving doesn't help. There is construction everywhere in this city, so there are loads of workers that are trucked to the construction sights in the morning and away in the evening in normal pick-ups. They PACK these people into the back of the trucks, standing room only. This picture doesn't come close to the amounts we've seen. Jack loves to see this, and he stands and waves, and always gets lots of smiles and waves right back.
Just an example of how some things are just smaller. I've mentioned before that when I shop, I feel like I'm in the Children's museum market because things are just small. No Costco or Sam's club here. We thought this UPS truck was hilarious.
This is the tuk-tuk that runs from our building to a few locations nearby. We take it very regularly to the train, Emporium, and occasionally, the hospital. The kids love it. Jack's always disappointed when it's not there waiting for us and he has to walk, but he's sure getting to be a tough kid because of it!
Here's the stop where we catch truck taxis home sometimes. We walk when we can, but since Jack's been out of school for the summer, and we aren't using the double stroller much, he gets pretty tired walking everywhere! So, it's always a treat when we can just ride home quickly. It's nice to have these available because there is always one there, they know exactly where to go, and the kids love them. The drivers all know us now and yell out the name of our apartment complex when we walk by, even if we aren't using one that day.
Here's one a little closer up. Safe? Nope. Convenient? Yes.
This day, the driver asked if Jack wanted to sit up front with him. Jack thought that was awesome. I sat in the back with Jane and watched as Jack asked about every little thing in the cab, and I'm sure the driver was telling him all about it. They were chatting it up the whole time, and Jack was loving it.
This is a woman I've bought som tam from on our soi. She was so sweet and knew that I couldn't have it too spicy. She washed the bowl out for me and everything (they make it all in the same wooden bowl, and sometimes the spice is left from other batches, so even when they don't add more peppers, it's still SO hot!). Thais always act so surprised when they see me eating or buying som tam. I will definitely miss how readily available it is here. I'm going to have to get me one of those bowls!
We see seamstresses on the street everyday. On this particular day, we were walking to a music store and Jack decided to swing on his "web" which just happened to be the backpack Jeff was wearing. It broke the strap. Moments later, we walked by this woman, so we asked if she could fix it. She quickly changed her thread and in about 5 minutes and 20 baht later, our backpack was as good as new.
This woman is one of my all time favorites. She always greets us with a HUGE smile and calls Janie by name, as well as "doll" and "lovely". I passed her one day and stopped to buy some pomelo and chat, and a young girl that sells pomelo down the street a ways was visiting with her. She informed me that she was her daughter. Now, they are both my favorite, and I look forward to seeing them everyday.
We pass shops like this all over the streets, especially along the main street, Sukhumvit, that we walk along everyday. I don't really buy clothes, but it's fun to look some days, and the vendors are always smiley and sweet with the children (what's new, right?).
A perfect example of a total disregard for safety. People are just much more relaxed here with this sort of thing. Maybe because they know they will rarely get pulled over, and if they do, they can bribe the officer (and I've actually seen this done, believe it or not). It makes me sick to even post this picture, or even remember this, because I didn't want him up there in the first place, but Jack took the driver up on his offer before I realized what was happening. Not my finest "mom moment", for sure.
This guard was terribly busy this day, so I didn't want to keep him, but he's my favorite. Especially before Jack got into school, we'd have an outing every morning. He was there every day when we would go to the train. He always stops and talks with Jane, helps Jack through the gate, and lets them play with his metal detector wand. Jane loves to make it beep. I find myself a little disappointed when he's not there some days because he is always so fun to see with Jane.
This is one of the playgrounds at our park. A little dangerous? Oh, yes. This was just one of the things that was in ill repair. We did visit there just the other day though, and the bridge had been repaired, so hopefully that's a good sign that things are on the mend. The reason I classify this as an "everyday thing" is simply because this is a perfect example of how things are not always kept up to any kind of safety standard. It's a little scary sometimes.
Home sweet home. It's called Baan Jamjuree ("Baan" is home, "Jamjuree" is a kind of tree). We are on the 15th floor, have a beautiful view, love the staff, and if you haven't noticed this yet, we love the city life.
When we first got here, I went out everyday with both the children, so we had the double stroller. There are very few elevators (only two I can think of in the whole skytrain system), and never any elevators going down, and sometimes not any going up. Anyway, I got pretty tough, pretty fast, hauling this thing up and down huge flights of stairs with Janie inside. Jack has gotten pretty good at the routine and I commonly hear him chanting, "I think I can, I think I can", when he's especially tired. Now, I mostly just take out our single stroller and don't get as many sympathy stares, which is nice. This place wasn't built for strollers or wheelchairs.
One more of my favorite vendors. I pass this fruit stand several times a day, and I just love this man. He always looks like he's on vacation, reading the paper in a floral shirt and his sun hat, and always wearing a smile. He always laughs at Jack who can't seem to leave his bungee cords alone that are attached to his stand. They are never the same when we leave, and Jack's always greasy. He gets a big kick out of this. I buy my pineapple from him more than anyone else. The other day, Jack talked me into trying watermelon again, which I haven't been impressed with in the past, and it was the best I've had in Bangkok. Delicious. He also sells mango, papaya, and guava.
If you haven't realized yet, people are just nice here. Just on Friday, after I had bought some fruit, I went a few steps only to find a plant stand rolling by. I stopped to look. After a minute, I looked to see what the kids were doing. Jack has plopped down on a stool at a food shop to start on his watermelon, and Jane had been pulled aside and entertained in the stroller by some other vendors. I bought my plants, collected the children and we all said goodbye. I look down and Jane's got a egg/crepe kind of dessert wrapped up just right and she's munching away. I look back to say thanks and the girl just smiles and tells me, "mai ben rai" (nevermind). So sweet, and a heck of a marketing strategy, I must say. My kids loved that, so we'll be buying from her again.
Good and bad, we love Bangkok! I only wish we could have gotten pictures of all our favorite people, places, and things, but this is a good start. Maybe we'll have to make this post into a series.
The main thing that strikes me about these people I've shared with you is how happy they are. They don't have glamorous jobs, clothing, cars, and I'm sure they don't have a fancy place to live. They work very hard, and in some cases, every day. I'm impressed with how simple their lives seem (of course, this is my perspective), yet they are so much happier than a lot of the people I've met here who have amazing homes, drivers, maids, nannies, and loads of money.
The quote, "what e'er thou art, act well thy part" is constantly running through my head as I see these sweet street vendors. These folks do what they do, and do it well. They are happy because they choose to be. They are a daily example to me that I can choose if I want to be happy too. And I am.