Friday, November 23, 2018

Loy-giving

Happy Thanksgiving--for you. We've already moved on. Today, we're dealing with the aftermath of a double holiday. In addition to Thanksgiving, yesterday was the Thai holiday, Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is the annual full moon/water/lantern festival. In Bangkok, it's celebrated by floating a little raft (krathong) on a body of water, usually a river, canal, or lake. The krathong hold offerings for the river spirits, like money or food. Last year, we caught some enterprising folks fishing the krathong out of the canal to "collect" the monetary offerings. Thais believe in karma. You have to wonder what happened to those dudes.

We didn't float a krathong this year. The majority of our day went toward Thanksgiving dinner. We hosted this year, and we had a lot of food. As all good hosts do, we pawned off most of the leftovers on our guests. I've been saving takeout containers all year for this. Dinner was a rousing success, thanks to a Norbest turkey from the Embassy emporium; really great guests; and Khun Noi, who cleaned the whole house yesterday. It was a great day, and we were glad we were able to celebrate. 

An unedited version of our Instagram Thanksgiving post.

While we're in a grateful mood, we might as well take this opportunity to force you to read our list of thanksgiving. In homage to Grandma Dot, and the personalized Thanksgiving verses she used to write for each family member, we'll do it in rhyme. 

It's 2018, and it's Thanksgiving time. We're thankful for lots, and we'll tell them in rhyme.We're grateful for family, we miss them every day. We're thankful for e-hangouts when we're feeling far away.We are thankful for our safety, for our home, and for our health. We recognize our privilege, and we count it all as wealth.This expat life is very weird, and often really fraught, but we've gotten so much out of it, and give thanks for all it's brought.We are grateful for the people who help fill up our lives. Here's a non-exhaustive list of them for our personal archives:Khun Noi cleans our house, and takes care of our pet. She does it all well, without breaking a sweat.The ladies downstairs take care of odds and ends. They are wonderful people, and wonderful friends.Speaking of friends, we give thanks for all we know. They're good and kind, and they're always on the go.The congregation at our church is generous and cool. They seem to practice kindness as a universal rule.The people of Thailand are so kind to our kid, that sometimes we stay home just to get off the grid.We've run out of steam, though there's much more to say. We hope you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving day.


p.s. Here are outtakes from our 2018 Thanksgiving e-card. Not pictured: me yelling at the kid to stop ripping the paper feathers out of Bella's harness.






Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lately

I want to apologize for every condescending and naive thing I've ever thought about stay-at-home parents. It's not always easy to find time for things like laundry, and vanity blogging. A friend with teenagers assured me that it doesn't get easier.

Unstaged.

Lately, we've had visitors. Some of Phil's family was here in mid-July. They fed us, entertained us, and took us to see elephants at a rad wildlife sanctuary. We're great hosts for letting them do all those things for us. We'll let you do the same if you come.

I will tell you more about Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand in a separate post, sometime.

At the end of July, our pediatrician friends came to see us after they attended a wedding in Japan. We loved spending time with them. They also fed us, and attempted to physically prevent me from paying for my own food on their last night in town. It was violent.

This was the night in question. They physically restrained me in front of my child.


In August, Phil went to Jakarta for two weeks. He ran into a lot of his global colleagues, and was able to catch up with them. He heard some wild stories. This is a weird lifestyle. The Kid and I stayed behind in Bangkok, and went on a few local adventures. We also watched a lot of Netflix.

One of our adventures was to a temple in Ayutthaya province to feed the stray cats and dogs.
Our Thai friend arranged it, and we went with her. Kid loved it.


This month, September, my mom came to visit. She's actually still here, though this is the final week of her stay. She's been taking care of everything. I can feel the dread of her departure creeping into my soul. Who's going to do the potty training?

I DON'T HAVE A PHOTO FOR THIS, BECAUSE IT'S STILL HAPPENING.

In the past few months, we've been able to visit some new places. One was a lovely, manufactured garden resort about an hour outside of Bangkok. Another was the Marriott resort on the beach in Rayong. Last week, we went to Koh Samui. We've also been to some great grocery stores.

The infinity pool at Marriott's Rayong resort was massive, I think. Can't tell you for sure, because it was my first time ever in an infinity pool...and I loved it.


Yesterday, we received the official list of open positions for Phil's next assignment. We could land in Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, South America, or Australia before the end of 2019. The final placement decision is out of our hands, but we do get to submit a bid list, with a rank order of which positions we'd prefer. This year, we're jumping through an extra hoop, thanks to a Class 2 medical clearance. Our next post has to be able to support my delicate constitution. "You have no compassion for my poor nerves." (Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice). Before we can bid, we have to get an extra approval, explicitly okaying which positions are open for us.

When we're finally able to bid, we ought to have a little contest regarding the outcome. Maybe a wager about where we'll move. Let's all think some more about this, and circle back soon with a plan.



I'm sorry to report that nap time has ended, and despite the two other available adults sitting less than 3m away from me and my computer, I have still been marked as the chosen one, so I've gotta wrap this sh*t up.

~I have so `much more I want to say, but my key1ho1board is no longer mine.aaaaaaaaaaaa




Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Khao Lak

For my birthday earlier this year, we went to Khao Lak. Only those in our innermost circle will be able to date that, which is by intention. I always want you to be under the impression that we're on top of this blog, sporadic updates aside.

I have a theory that if you want to find a good beach, you have to follow a German. Khao Lak is a beautiful, coastal area, very popular among German, and other European tourists. It's just north of Phuket, and is much less crowded and noisy. The beaches are lovely. Khao Lak is a well-known jumping off point for diving, with several nearby national parks, nice and plentiful accommodations, and close enough proximity to Phuket that you can pop over for a day tour. I don't know why I'm trying to sell you on this place, because a large part of Khao Lak's appeal is that most tourists don't know about it. Stay away.

Khao Lak lighthouse from the beach in front of our resort.

We spent most of our trip hanging out on Khao Lak's beaches, but we did a slight bit of touring, including in the city of Phuket. It was interesting, and fun, and sad, and astonishing, and really, really beautiful. I've broken our photographs down into four sections. The majority are pics of the beach, but there are some other things I want you to see, and know.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

I want to get this out of the way at the outset, because it's hard to read about, and hard to write about. On December 26, 2004, an earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering several massive tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. The waves slammed into southwest Thailand around 10am. Thousands of people died, but the hardest hit area was Phang Nga Province, which includes Khao Lak. The run-up was large, and the waves reached 2km inland. Entire fishing villages were devastated. I had a classmate who died in Khao Lak that day, which is one of many reasons I've wanted to visit the area. 

A sign on our resort's property. 


It's hard to understand the degree of devastation that occurred in Khao Lak, particularly when you're not familiar with the history, but there are several obvious reminders of what happened. Some of the vegetation near the shore has big gouges and deep scarring. Several small, locally-run museums have popped up, with photographs and videos from the disaster. There's a tsunami warning system, and new infrastructure to prevent a similar disaster. And there are tsunami memorials.


Police Boat 813 was patrolling offshore while the late king's grandson rode a jet ski. When the tsunami hit Khao Lak, the boat was dragged 2km inland. The king's grandson did not survive the tsunami. The boat was left in place as a memorial. 

This tsunami memorial in Khao Lak is on the same site as Police Boat 813.


We drove from the beach to the memorial. 2 km didn't sound like that far of a distance, until we actually experienced it. To see the vegetation, the roads, and the structures between the shore and the police boat was jarring.



Ban Nam Khem is a fishing village to the north of Khao Lak. Per capita, it suffered the greatest tsunami losses in Thailand. The village was decimated. There's a tsunami memorial on the shore, where plaques with victims' names and photographs hang along a tiled wall. The opposing concrete wall is shaped in a wave, with a cutout near the end closest to the water. That opening shows a recovered fishing boat, which has been incorporated into the memorial. Walking through it felt similar to the feeling you get when you walk though the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. It was overwhelming.

I have read a lot about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I have watched a lot about it, and I have thought a lot about it. I am thankful we were able to visit Khao Lak, and see some of the recovery that has taken place, though it is still hard to understand. 

Phuket's Big Buddha

Now that you're educated, and sad, let me show you something from the party that is Phuket. We only spent half a day on/in Phuket, and the most photogenic thing we saw there was the Big Buddha. It's exactly what its name implies...a very big Buddha. The statue sits on top of a hill, with panoramic views of Phuket from the top. It was built as a community effort through donations, and is only about 10-15 years old, with construction ongoing. It's a pretty place, and a site of worship for some, but it's also super touristy.  







Here's a little bit of view, and a little bit of religion. Supplicants can purchase one of these gold leaves, and write a prayer of blessing or gratitude on it. The funds go toward construction and upkeep of the statue/temple.

The Big Buddha in Phuket draws a weird mix of supplicants and sightseers, but that seems to be par for the course when it comes to the well-known temples in Thailand. We liked it. We were glad we went.

Ao Phang Nga Bay and Rubber Trees

On the way back to Khao Lak from Phuket, we stopped at an overlook of the Phang Nga Bay. This place has been featured in a few movies, including one of the James Bond shows. I don't know which. Google says The Man with the Golden Gun. Sure. A lot of people (most people?) take a boat tour of the bay, but we had limited time and a toddler. We found an overlook. It was an outstanding view.

Now you see me...



...now you don't.

As an unrelated, but cool, aside, this area of Thailand boasts a significant rubber production industry. There were rubber trees everywhere. This is notable, because The Kid kept yelling, "Wuhbba Kwees," while we drove, and it was adorable.

Rubber trees in Phang Nga province.

Khao Lak's Beaches

The beaches. Oh, the beaches. What can I say about the beaches? Why don't we let the beaches speak for themselves. This is convenient, because I am tired of writing. Enjoy Khao Lak.







A quick written interjection--this is all coral. This entire beach was coral. CORAL!






Monday, August 6, 2018

2016 Christmas Card Challenge Winners!!!!

It is with great pleasure that we announce the 2016 Christmas Card Challenge Winners, Natalie and Broc. This win has been two long years in the making (See: HERE and HERE and HERE). We're thrilled to present you with this major award, and take your old card off the wall, though we'd never say that last part to your faces.

There they are; the only card still standing on that section of the wall. You'll note that we still have 5 cards in active competition for the 2017 Christmas Card Challenge.

And so, the Year of the Double Duel is half over. We hope to crown our 2017 champion before December, but with four months to go, and no wall action in over a month, it's going to be close. Let's all cross our fingers together, and hope for a Christmas miracle. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What the Wat: Wat Saket, The Golden Mount

Ten thousand years ago, The Kid and I went to Wat Saket. Our friend organized the trip. She figured out how to get to the temple via water taxi, so we rode a boat down the khlong. I'd never have done that on my own, but it's easier to do terrifying things when you're with someone braver than you.

Getting on and off the boat was frightening, because we had to clamber into the thing from the pier with our kids, and all of our associated kid gear. The boats bob up and down in the water, as boats do, and it's a pretty big step down from the pier to the deck. You have to do a sort of simultaneous duck and swing to clear the roof. Normally, they load and unload the water taxis at an alarming pace, but everyone took pity on us, and went slow. It was an exciting, inexpensive ride, and an easy way to get to the Golden Mount.

Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount, is a temple in the center of Bangkok. Its name comes from the golden stupa of the temple, which rests on top of a man-made hill. A stupa, as I just learned from Google, is a structure that contains relics of Buddhist monks. In Thailand, stupas are often called chedis. This particular chedi is said to contain relics of the Buddha.



There has been a temple at Wat Saket for hundreds of years, but the current temple, the hill, and the golden chedi on top of the hill, are relatively recent additions. In the 1800s, King Rama III ordered construction of a massive chedi. The ground was not accommodating. Bangkok soil is boggy and soft. Rama III's chedi collapsed during construction. As nature began to retake the chedi, a hill formed. In the late 1800s, a new, smaller chedi was built on top of the old, collapsed one. The current temple at Wat Saket was built in the early 1900s, and the hill with the chedi was reinforced in the 1940s.

Visitors purchase these leaves to make merit (give offerings).

The temple site is large and quiet. To get to the chedi, you have to walk up a winding set of stairs. There are 300 in total, but they're small, easy stairs. The four year old in our group was able to walk all of them, and the two year old made it halfway before quitting. Along the route are various objects for worship and meditation--probably. I'm not very familiar with Buddhism, so I don't have much insight into the symbolism. It's very lovely and peaceful, so I appreciated it in a base sense.




Buddhists come to Wat Saket to worship. It's a tourist attraction for the rest of us because of the view from the top.






We went on a beautiful day, and were able to take advantage of a nice breeze. I love visiting temples when there's a breeze, because you can hear all of the little and big bells blowing in the wind.

The breeze wasn't strong enough to ring this bell, so the four year old rang it, instead.

On the way down, The Kid took his first photograph for the blog:

This is how the world looks from his perspective. It gives me vertigo.

One very interesting feature of Wat Saket is the burial ground on the side of the hill. Some of the memorials are built for patrons of the temple. I don't know if patrons is the correct word. It will have to stand, because I don't know the correct word. Some are for people who were cremated here. And some are for plague victims. Wat Saket was a burial site for around 60,000 of Thailand's plague victims during the late 1700s. We sat near the base of the cemetery while we took a snack break. It would have been interesting to look around it more, but I was very hot.




Wat Saket was not on my radar until my friend planned this outing. It was a trip worth taking, and something I'd recommend to anyone spending more than a day or two in Bangkok. During Loy Krathong in November, there's a big temple festival at the site. Depending on whether you like crowds of people, or not, that might be an interesting time to go. I'd be tempted, but only slightly. And only if someone else planned the logistics. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Year Without Greece...almost

We left Greece exactly one year ago. We are happy in Bangkok, but there's a lot to miss about Ελλάδα

Earlier this year, Phil had a work training in Frankfurt. We decided to make a brief detour back to Greece. We saw a few new things, visited some old things, and spent time with many of our friends. I've finally sorted through the photos, and thought it would be nice to mark our departure anniversary by forcing you to scroll through them. Everybody loves a vacation slideshow.

I've presented the photos with minimal captioning, due in part to the fact that I've already told you about a lot of these places, in part because I don't live there anymore so I don't feel obligated to tell you about these places, and in part because it almost physically pains me to see these places. Greece is so beautiful.

On the beach in Kantia.
George, a resident, told me that, "Everywhere else in Greece it is raining, but here the God's have an umbrella."


Poppies and olives in Argolis.

Goats on the road in Argolis.


Beautiful port town in Argolis.

Hiking to Franchthi Cave.

Franchthi Cave, first occupied in 38,000 BCE.


Coming back from the cave.


Hiking on the point near Ermioni. 

Hiking on the beautiful point near Ermioni. 

HIking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.

Still hiking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.

Starting to wonder what the actual town of Ermioni looks like, if this is what the point looks like, while still hiking on the unbelievably beautiful point near Ermioni.

Ermioni.

Poros island.

Temple of Poseidon on Poros island.

View from the Temple of Poseidon on Poros island. 
Still on Poros.


Still on Poros.

On or near Poros, actual location was not archived. Whoops.

On the way to Methana.

Hiking on Methana volcano. 
A shot of our unsolicited Greek farm dog guide on Methana volcano.


A portrait of a volcano, specifically Methana.

View from the top of the volcano.

View from inside the volcano.

View of the unsolicited Greek farm dog guide who rock scrambled with us all the way to the top of the volcano.
He also ran ahead of us on the way down, and made sure we got back to our car.

Dogless view from the top of Methana volcano.

Phil in front of the furnace.

Breathtaking Greece, near Methana.

Future award winning photography, probably. Also near Methana.

Rainbow over Tolo from a beach in Kantia.

Memorial shrine in Sounio.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounio.

More from Sounio.

Monastery on Mount Parnitha.

Sun in the pavement at the monastery.

Kid in a tree at the monastery.

Park of Souls, Mount Parnitha.

Hazy view of Ελλάδα on the way out of town.
We have one more year in Thailand, and a lot more to see. It's been a different post from Athens, and I will miss it differently. I wonder how long it will take after leaving here for us to come back here. This seems like an excellent opportunity for some gambling. Anyone want to start a pool?