10 February 2008

Year of the Rat

I don't know much about Chinese culture, but I learned some things this week because Thursday was the start of the Chinese New Year festival! It's fun to be in a completely different culture where holidays are so different and to learn about some of them first hand. My good friend, Sukma, is mother to Sasha (in Jack's class) and Brandon (Jane's best buddy). She is from Indonesia, but her ancestry is Chinese, so it's a big deal for her family. She spent the entire day before (which was New Year's Eve) cooking specific foods, preparing gifts, and decorating the house. I think Goose and Duck are a very important part of the meal from what I gathered. She arrived at school the next morning with gifts for each of the children in Sasha's class, and Brandon even had one for Jane!

Sukma explained that for this holiday, it's customary for the married couples in a family to give little red envelopes to the young children with money in them. She didn't think it was appropriate to hand out money to children at school, so she put some chocolate coins in there, which Jane and Brandon immediately feasted on. What a way to start out a day! These two are two peas in a pod, I'm telling you!

Beyond the New Year, it's been SO fun to spend so much time with Sukma lately. I kept wondering at first why it was so easy to talk with her for hours, even when she is from somewhere completely different, and English is her 2nd/3rd language. Funny answer. She watches a LOT of American television! Apparently, her community in Indonesia goes nuts for anything American. Clothing, music, and especially movies and TV. So, because of this, her English is very good, she knows a lot about American culture and is usually explaining to ME about things I've never really thought about! She knows WAY more about TV shows and Hollywood stars than I do, which she loves to ask about. I'm afraid I'm a little disappointing when it comes to getting the inside scoop, but at least I got to tell her that not all the women in America are like the ones on Desperate Housewives! I'm glad I got to straighten that one out.

Sukma is amazing. Instead of coming to Bangkok and living a much easier, pampered lifestyle than she could have back home (like most expat women), she is the opposite. She came from a very privileged background and grew up with the works (maids, nannies, cars, drivers, cooks, excellent education, etc.). Now, she lives in Bangkok, away from her family and all the frills, to raise her children with just her husband, clean her own little one bedroom apartment, and cut costs wherever possible. I know, to all of you in the States, this seems normal to do these things, but to a LOT of expat women here, it is unheard of to do all of this without hired help, particularly when you were raised in this environment. Her parents come to stay and ask her to come home and live in their big home, drive the cars, use the nannies, etc., but she stays here because it is safer for her family. I admire her for taking the harder road that will ultimately be better for her children. I'm telling you, this woman is awesome. I'm so lucky to have her as a friend! Not to mention, Brandon being an automatic playmate for Jane at all school related activities. BIG bonus!

Wow, I really didn't plan on writing much tonight! She's just been on my mind lately. Here are some fun pictures from our week.

Our good friend, Mary Jane, just had her 3rd baby girl this last week. They came over for a playdate and the kids had a great time together. I loved this one of little Alina.

Jack and Narissa couldn't get ENOUGH of baby Anna. I think they would have sat there forever. What a blessing older siblings are! I love you, Vanessa and Joanna!

I didn't think this one was that good of a shot until I saw Narissa's face. She's always SO reserved, so I had to include it.

Ring around the rosies. It is fun to watch Jane play with the big kids this much, but then switch over to play with little Alina. Narissa was Jack's first friend here, and what a blessing she's turned out to be!

Jane was making her funny faces one day, but I liked this one, in between the funnies, the best. I love when she laughs at herself.

We spent a really fun night with Jack's friend, Dylan, and his family. I've done different things with Kari (CATS) and Graham (we take the kids bowling), but we've never all gotten together at once before, so this was a treat. We had a BBQ on the lawn at their townhouse and went swimming. It felt like we were home! The smell of the grill, kids running safely around the homes, the warm sun, the grass. All things we don't do a lot here (besides the warm sun, of course). It was SO fun to have a nice, laid back evening with good food, fun play, and visiting with such fun and interesting friends. We were maybe TOO laid back, I didn't get picture of Graham, Kari, or Isabelle!

Dylan and Graham were the first people we met at Jack's school on his trial day, and even though Dylan and Jack aren't in the same class this year, they still have a LOT of fun together! So silly.

Jane was really reserved in this pool for some reason, but she still loved playing with Isabelle (wish I had a picture of her!) and splashing around a bit. She especially loved the outside shower!

They were BEAT after the swim, play, and food, so they sat and watched playhouse Disney like this while the adults visited just a little bit longer. It was hitting Dylan a lot faster than Jack, obviously. We left around 7:30, but with a full afternoon like that, it felt like 10:30!

We were invited for dinner at George and Mary's again. We LOVE this family! Mary made some delicious Sri Lankan and Indian food that Jeff and I gobbled up way too much of. We remembered later that the reason she kept piling on more was because we were finishing it! We learned we needed to leave a little bit there, then insist that we were full!

The kids had a blast playing together, and it was so fun to visit with George and Mary. I couldn't believe that they wanted us to come over because Mary's been so sick, vomiting every day! She's pregnant, which we are all thrilled about, but it's been a rough start. I invited them to just come to us, so she wouldn't need to cook, but she insisted we come to their home, so she could cook for us. Amazing people! Notice the area behind this bike. That's the kitchen. The rice cooker (you can see) and there's also a small dish they use to cook over the propane cannister. No oven, no stove, yet she makes due. Through that door is a little sink, garbage and a faucet to wash their laundry.

Jane and Diran were being hilarious pretending to eat each thing individually off of this little Christmas tree. I wish you could hear their sound effects. Classic!

One birthday party this week. Just one, but for two people! Happy Birthday to Isaac and Lucas, two of Jack's best friends. It was just casual and fun, and the kids just ran around and played with each other. Very nice.

After the cake, the boys (Issac and Lucas, unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them both!) immediately started opening presents behind a big chair where no one could see them. Jack decided to join in the fun and see all the cool stuff. I was glad I caught them because it was hilarious to see how they reacted when they thought no one was watching.

This is Jack telling me that I'm calling Lucas the wrong name. He can tell them apart, but I still struggle! It shouldn't be that hard, I'm married to a twin!

Jane being super cute in her "Tinkerbell" party dress. Thank you to our Santa's helper from Virginia. This has definitely become a favorite!

We also had a fun time meeting our friends, Sasha and Liza, at Lumpini park. We haven't seen them since before Christmas, so this visit was LONG overdue. This scene was very typical of our time at this particular playground. Jack LOVES to push then jump on, and Jane is always yelling "faster, faster!". Most kids that get on with mine quickly hop off, but Sasha was loving ever minute of it. Where I get such thrill seeker kids, I will never know!

So, I guess we've just had a really great week with friends. I've been thinking recently about how different things are right now, from this time last year. Sometimes I don't know how I did it only knowing a handful of people, being in a new apartment and neighborhood, speaking almost no Thai, and having both kids with me all the time. Now, I feel like we've got a pretty good thing going. We have lots of friends to call on, we LOVE our area, we know a little more Thai, and having Jack in school has opened so many doors. I look back and the decisions we made back then, particularly where to live and what school for Jack, were even better than we realized at the time. Although it's a little commute for Jeff each day, our soi is fantastic. We have practically no nightlife (which we're finding extremely unique), good vendors and a few restaurants, we're close to the kid's swim classes, the hospital, train, and the mall. We knew very little of this when we chose the apartment. I liked Jack's school right away, but had no idea it was SO convenient compared to all the other schools, and it's turned out to be such a fun source of new friends and a lot of fun family activities, beyond just being a great school that Jack loves.

I guess as I've been thinking about it this week, I am realizing what a blessing it was to be so involved and excited about the "new-ness" of everything, that I didn't realize that it was really hard to be here, away from everything we know and everyone we love. It was hard. It is hard some days. It's also been worth it.


John, Megan and girls said...

How are you? I love the blog! Carla told me that you were in Thailand and that's why you couldn't make it for the wedding, and I randomly found your blog address on Classmates, that I don't really look at. It's so fun to see your kids. I'd love to email with you sometime about living abroad. John is finishing his PhD now and we're still looking into various options, but were wondering about living abroad with two small children. My email is meggierie@hotmail.com, and I'd love to hear from you. I don't think I've seen you at least since I moved to Pennsylvania. It's so great to see your cute family!
Megan Kramer Collins

zippa said...

I love seeing your families pictures and reading about all of your adventures. You guys really are such a beautiful family!!!

Team Hanni said...


I am SLOWWWW at getting to your blog the last few weeks. I am so excited that you will be here for SLC!!! Have you run that race before? It is hands down my favorite race I have ever done. Amazing starting line, bands along the way, and the best finish line ever at the Gateway. It would be so awesome for you and Jeff to do it!!! I hope it works out. I would love to see you!

Your weeks look sooooo busy. You never cease to amaze me how flexible you and your kids are. So great!

P.S. running on the Great Wall??? WOW that would be so amazing!

Tara Fears said...

Mindy! I love reading all your fun stories on your blog! Thanks for sharing them! And can I just say that Jane is a MINDY JR.? She is totally YOU! (And adorable...of course)