Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mostly Pithy Proverbs for the New Year

We've nearly reached the finish line of 2017. Phil and I are probably a bit closer to it than you are, but we've always been overachievers. This is the one time of year when living hours ahead of my loved ones is a real kick. I love sending messages "from the future."

I also love that old "See you next year!" joke that everyone uses on their colleagues during the last week of December. I'm happy to confirm that the joke is universal. Two different Thai friends used it on me, and I was delighted.

Historically, New Year's Eve has been a touchy time for me. I have a hard time shelving my Christmas expectations. I don't do well in low-light environments. I don't do well with little sleep. I don't do well with loud noises. I don't do well in crowds. It can get rough.

Bella really nailing the "Jane on New Year's Eve" aesthetic. 

If there's one thing about NYE that I can get behind, it's the hope of a new year. Even though I'm going to drag myself out of bed on January 1st with the same problems I dragged into it, the new year is a good reminder for me that time, and change, are no respecters of persons.

My grandma kept an eclectic collection of proverbs taped around her kitchen walls. During a recent setback, one of these proverbs came to mind. It helped me get off the floor, and get back to work. Those little, pithy quotes can go a long way.

In honor of the new year, and my grandma, here are a few of my favorite proverbs. They're from various sources, including my grandma's wall. None are credited, and a few are lightly edited to make them sound better. I took artistic license. It's fine.

Wishing you a happy, hopeful new year, wherever you are (including, maybe, the floor).

Friday, December 15, 2017

Lately, and The Day the Phone Stood Still

You need a quick update of our lives. Contrary to what the title of this post suggests, I'm not going to start with the Lately. I'm going to start by telling you about my phone. I could change the title to reflect this, but it flows better the way it is. 

The Day the Phone Stood Still

A few weeks ago, I saw a notification pop up on my mobile. It said something about updating my wireless whatever. As a rule, I respond to technological updates with either apathy or paranoia. I ignored it for a few days, before I eventually realized that it really had been issued by my phone manufacturer. "No harm there," I thought. 

Well, the software engineers made a little whoopsie in coding the update. Everyone with my particular model of phone who installed the update got locked out. The phone repeatedly asked for a password, and declined all of them. The company's patch, while they scrambled to find a solution, was to tell their customers to complete a factory reset of their phones. That caused some bad feelings. 

Long story short, I was one of the people who decided not to wait for a solution. Fortunately, I'd copied all of my photos from July-September to my computer. Unfortunately, I lost everything after that point. Fortunately, Google automatically uploads my photos to my account. Unfortunately, they are not high resolution. Fortunately, I don't need high resolution for the blog. 

What you need to understand is that this story doesn't matter to you, and there's no reason for me to have told it.

One of the photos that was lost to the ravages of technology, yet also saved by the ravages of technology.


It's been a long time since we've given you a Lately. Let's do it.

Phil's enjoying work. The workload is bigger here, but is still basically 9-5. He hasn't had to travel as much so far, but he has been to Chiang Mai a few times, and was able to fly to London to help with the new embassy there. 

The Kid is getting taller, and it's weird. He babbles all the time now. He's currently babbling while he should be napping. I'd tell him to shut up and sleep, but then he'd know for sure that I'm sitting out here. 

Bella is doing what she always does, and she's doing it better than anyone else ever has.

I'm slowly getting our house in order, making friends, and meticulously documenting all the weird health complaints I've had into a document titled, "Everything Wrong With Me Daily." It may not be useful, but it is cathartic.

Here are some other things that are going on:

I bought a plant.

Bella found a good place to sleep.

We walked underneath these electrical wires and didn't die.

It rained on the pool.

I bought another plant.

I bought three more plants. 

Phil's family came to visit.

We went to the old capital, Ayutthaya. I took more pictures, and will show you later.

It rained and the street flooded.

I forgot about sweet potatoes, and found them a few months later.

I put up Halloween decorations.

I got sick on Halloween, and the decorations taunted me.

Thailand celebrated Loy Krathong, the full moon festival.

And we got to see the after-effects of all the krathong (rafts) they floated down the canal.

My mom came to visit.

We went to the late king's crematorium.

The Greece sponsored booth at a YMCA fundraiser was 90% Greek Mexican food products.

We decorated for Thanksgiving, then celebrated at a buffet.

Bella found a good place to sleep.

Thai strawberry season began.

I made and burned a pecan pie.

We found a new pizza place through a mommy Facebook group.

And those mommies knew what they were talking about.

Bella found a good place to sleep.

It rained on December.

I made a puffy omelette (souffle, in chef world).

We walked around the city a lot. 

When people live in exciting places, I usually assume they're doing exciting things. I think this post is a good reminder for all of us that Expats--They're Just Like Us! (except that I probably make a better puffy omelette than you, and that's not gloating, it's just reality). 

Hope you are all happy and well, and enjoying December!

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Jane and Phil Apartment Tour: Bangkok

What does our new house look like?

Before our stuff came, it looked like this:

After our stuff came, it looked like this:

When it's relatively organized, it looks like this:

But, let me start from the front door, and take you on an abbreviated e-tour.

This is our entryway. The cupboards to the left have shelves for shoes. They're slanted at an angle for that purpose. It's super inconvenient for storing anything other than shoes. I do it anyway, but I swear more than I would otherwise.

This is our living room and dining room. All of the furniture was landlord provided, with a few exceptions. The embassy provided the bookcases, which I haven't finished organizing, so cool it with your internal criticisms. They also provided the lamps, and the carpets. We're on the waiting list for a recliner, but I don't think it will happen. Most overseas housing is furnished, usually by the embassy. A few places are unfurnished, and it's a huge bummer for the people at those posts. Our friends had to make a costly investment in furniture for their latest European post. 

This is our kitchen. It's much smaller than the one we had in Athens. It's better not to compare your housing assignment to others, including your past homes, unless your current house is way better. If it is better, rub it in everyone's face.

The storage/counter space in our kitchen is limited. We don't have a dishwashing machine, but I am a dishwashing machine, and I'm incredible. Tap water in Bangkok meets all international health standards when it leaves the plant. By the time it gets to the house, it's been through a lot. The embassy provides filtered water for us. We use the filtered water for drinking and cooking. We use the tap water for everything else. We haven't died yet, so that's encouraging. The range is fueled by a propane tank (!) on the back balcony. 

Here's the back balcony. It's connected to the kitchen, and to the maid's entrance, which is a separate door from the main entrance. A lot of people (with money) in Bangkok have a live-in maid. The apartments in this building have separate maid's quarters, which consist of a very small bedroom and bathroom, off of this balcony.

This is the bathroom. The toilet is just out of frame to the right. There's a drain in the floor for the shower. There is no hot water. I don't know where you'd hang a towel. 
This is the bedroom. We've packed it full of our storage. It looks accommodating, but you could probably fit a full-sized bed in there, and nothing else. We've decided that this is where we'll put the bad guests.

We have no plans to hire a live-in maid. Our neighbor recommended a wonderful woman who comes to our house once a week to clean. The idea of a stranger coming into my house to clean up my messes while I watch was so triggering for my social anxiety, that I stayed up late the night before her first day, and made sure everything was as organized as possible for her. It was sort of like pre-gaming, but with housework. Within minutes of her first day, she had completely diffused my nervousness. She's great, and I like her a lot. I still have to do some pre-clean before her visits, but I'm hoping to wean myself of that entirely in another month or two. Baby steps.

Here's one of the spacious, indoor bedrooms. This is where we'll put the good guests. I moved one of the twins from the other room into this room, and made one giant bed. It's fun.

This is The Kid's room. It's a work in progress, and he couldn't care less about my efforts. Toddler room decor is a thankless task.

This is the grand bedroom, with the other twin from Kid's room. It's the lightest room in the house.

Here is one of the bathrooms. We have five, if you count that grim one with the shower on the wall. I never in my life imagined I'd be living in a place with five bathrooms. I can't go back to the real world after this. Three of the bathrooms have tubs and showers. The fourth is a nice water closet off the entryway. The fifth one is the grim one.

Housing can be one of the most contentious things about the foreign service lifestyle, both in the broader community, and within families. Most posts allow you to list your preferences, but the final decision is left to the housing board. Sometimes, you don't find out where you're living, until you're a month away from living there. Sometimes, you have to move after you've already arrived at post. It can be hard to plan ahead when you're not sure what your housing situation is going to be. People become really nasty over what they do and don't get.  I guess it's understandable, but I think sometimes we all need to knock it off with the sense of entitlement. There are people with genuine cause for concern, and then there are just whiners. If you choose this lifestyle, steer clear of the latter, and try to avoid becoming one yourself. 

Overall, we're happy with our housing. We're in a great location. We have killer amenities. We have plenty of space. We're safe. We have shelter. And we have four great bathrooms (plus one grim one)!  

You can't argue with that view.