>> Friday, July 31, 2009

Sam was utterly exhausted and hungry. When the food came it was so different and our little pier-side eatery smelled so fishy that he really didn't eat much. He just wanted to go to the aquarium. What he really needed was a nap. We did, too.

Lunch on the pier of the Chao Praya River.

Wat Arun from the boat.

Sometimes it's just fun to wander away from the tourist areas. This was a little place off to the side of the street food vendors near the river. No tourists were around besides us. There were apartments and it smelled like fish. Lots of dried fish and rice vendors.

After Wat Pho, we wandered down the road. This is a street vendor selling Buddha amulets. There's a law that says people can't actually sell images of Buddha, so I guess they call it "renting". We rented a few for Sam.

Do you know what this little squirrel-type animal is?
We certainly don't.
It was in a cage and the lady let Sam hold it.

On the way to Khao San Road, we stumbled on this group of demonstrators.
You can see the people all in red and the Grand Palace in the background.
Someone said that they were protesting the consolidation of government power and wanted a more democratic system. This is the original place where protests took place when Thailand became democratic.

The riot police were in full gear and were very friendly.
They told Sam to hold the shield for the picture.

And Matt ate a grasshopper.
I have to say it was pretty daring. Too daring for me.
He says it was super gross.

Khao San Road.
This is the hippy, druggy, tattoo place. I wanted to see it during the day. It seemed more like a place where young adults go to make really bad choices than a tourist attraction.

We're in Thailand and Sam eats at McDonalds.
I can't really say anything about it because I ate pizza later.
It is better than grasshopper.

Waiting for the ferry on the way back to the hotel.


One night in Bangkok

It's our first night in Bangkok and boy are we pooped! The itinerary went like this:

  • Breakfast at a little foreign-owned place attached to the hostel
  • The Sky Train to river ferry
  • A river ferry to Wat Pho (Big Buddha)
  • Got blessed by a monk
  • Wat Pho to lunch overlooking the river
  • Long walk to the Grand Palace which ended up being closed.
  • Long walk toward Khao San Road (druggy, hippy place that we wanted to see, but only during the day)
  • On the way to Khao San Road, we happened upon the Royal Field where they were having a protest against the Thai government.
  • Got to Khao San Road and saw lots of people getting braids, dreads, and tattoos.
  • Sam ate at McDonalds, Matt and I ate street food.
  • On the way back to the ferry, we waited and waited and waited for the boat.
  • Took the train home and found a pizza place. Yum.
  • Showers and bed.

Funny things for the day:
  • I bought a spring roll from a street vendor, but it was cold. So I asked the vendor to head it up for me on her cooking area. Boy, was she mad! But it was yummy and I am happy that it was nicely heated through.
  • Last night on the way to our hotel, we drove through a seedy spot. There were some girls standing on the corner in short skirts. You may guess from here what they were doing. Our cab driver said to us, "Night Lady."
  • "Helpful" people keep trying to approach us to sell us stuff that we don't really need. Like a free tour, an expensive cab ride for a 10 minute walk, and lots of markets that we really don't want to go to.
  • Sam wanted to go to McDonalds when we have all of this yummy Thai food available. And then I wanted pizza.


>> Sunday, July 26, 2009

Matt and I wanted to check out this place up on Xiangshan. On summer evenings, they set up tables and people come through and pick out their dinners buffet-style. They had all kinds of good things like grasshoppers with hot peppers, snails (in the shell, of course) with hot peppers, silk worms, duck heads, chicken feet... You get the idea.

The guy under the umbrella actually had some stuff that we would normally be interested in. They take the meat or vegetables on the skewer and they cook it on that little grill. It's my favorite street food. These people had all sorts of delicious stuff like eggplant and mushrooms in addition to the regular meat. The guy didn't seem to happy about us taking his picture, though.

We decided, instead, to head over to a wonderful restaurant that serves traditional, Imperial Chinese food. So delicious. Much more appetizing than grasshoppers. Ah, happiness.


Sam's Last Day of Second Grade

This is Sam's last day of second grade. While he was sad to leave his friends, he was also really happy to know that school was ending because he had visions of Wii marathons.

These are some of the kids in Sam's class. You may notice that most of them aren't wearing their uniform but I think that's because it was the last day of school. They wore their uniforms almost without fail. I wasn't a really big fan of his uniform when he first started school but now I love it. Mornings are very easy when you don't have to decide what to wear every day.

Mrs. Wang was his teacher for first and second grade. Every morning the kids greet her in English with a thick Chinese accent, "Good morning, Mrs. Wang."

One morning I heard Sam say it to her, too. And his accent was just as thick as the other kids in the class.

I love that Sam is just about as tall as Mrs. Wang.

We don't know this man's real name but we call him, "Makai Guy." That's because every morning when we would drop Sam off at school and every afternoon when we took him home he would bellow out Sam's Chinese name, "Makai!" It made our day, every day. Sometimes he would call him "Mr. Shui ge" which means "Mr. Handsome." He was always cheerful (except for a few months when we had bad guanxi because of a little parking argument). It's just a little thing he did, but it's really a big part of our China experience.



>> Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday morning was an adventure. It was raining out and Sam had slept over at Ethan and Taylor's house. I needed to pick him up, so I put on my sturdy Doc Martens (yep, I still wear them sometimes) and went out in the rain to find a cab. Lo and behold, the driveway out to the street was flooded.

I decided to build a mini-bridge. I grabbed a brick from a pile of rubble and put it out in the flow of water. I went back to get another brick, stepped on the brick I had placed earlier, and placed the new brick. Then I returned for another brick, placing it again at the end of the mini-bridge. I followed this pattern until I had built a little bridge to cross my mini-river. Feeling triumphant, I walked up the hill to the main road.

It was even more flooded. People walking down the street had their pants rolled up and their sandals on and were wading through the water. I tried to find my path the best I could, but buses came by and splashed me and there were deep water flows that couldn't be crossed by mini-bridges. I finally figured out a way to cross the street and walk on a curb. By this time, I was soaked up to my knees and had been splashed all over by passing buses.

I got a cab, thankfully. We started to go down the road and ran into the roads in the pictures above. Cars had stalled in the flooded road and guys were pushing them out. The driver stopped and watched and waited. Luckily, our side of the road was a little higher in elevation and, after seeing multiple cars drive by successfully, my cab driver drove through. We made it safely and had a good laugh.


Friday night we went to see Ice Age 3D with the Wright family. Sam loves to play with their two boys, Ethan and Taylor. So, Friday night the theater near their house had an English showing of Ice Age 3. We got there, got our seats and our popcorn and eagerly waited for the movie to start. We watched the first few minutes of Scrat and then the first words came on in Chinese.


Matt and I don't speak much Chinese but could at least watch and understand a little of what was going on in the movie. Sam could get a lot of the content so I thought we'd just sit and enjoy the experience for what it was.

But then Jamie Wright got up and talked to the theater people to tell then it was supposed to be in English. They stopped the movie and started it again in English. The audience roared with approval. We all have a wonderful time.

It is so easy for me to go along and not question things. It only took one person to ask the question to change the entire experience. Way to go, Jamie!


A day in the life...

>> Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some days in China are rapturous. So full of joy and excitement that I know a little part of me will die when I have to leave.

Some days are not.

We had some errands to do: bank, groceries. Quick trip, no problem. Even took a cab to speed things up.

The cab driver was very friendly. In fact, he started giving us an impromptu Chinese lesson. Teaching me (o.k., mostly Matt) how to properly say "Haidian" because Matt had used the third tone instead of the second (?). Then we got a little vocabulary lesson and dutifully repeated the words back. I have to say that this friendly little gesture gets repeated with cab drivers often and would possibly be endearing if I really could remember anything they taught me. Most of the time it turns into me repeating what they say. Nodding, smiling. Forgetting. Happened again, today.

Finally...after ploughing through traffic...we arrived at the bank to make our transfer. A simple procedure, right? Take money from account A, convert it to US funds and transfer to account B. Turns out it's not so simple. I argued and argued and argued with three different bank workers trying to get this done. Apparently, there are more rules than I had thought. Like I can't take out money and give it to Matt to deposit in his account in the US. At least if they're looking.

It wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't an hour trip each way to get to the bank. We'll have to go back on Monday to make the transfer. Aargh.

Then to grocery shopping. There is a store here called Carrefour. It's a big chain from France and has a few foreign items. It's the closest place to get cheese and beef. Going there on Saturday is like Walmart on Christmas Eve and Black Friday...combined. No kidding. Every Saturday.

After we loaded our cart with cheese, bacon, other American stuff, we waited in line for a very very long time. When I neared the checkout stand I saw a sign that said, "5 items or less". The people in back of me also had lots of things in their cart, too. So we (me and the people in back of me) decided that we would go through anyway and hope for the best. I got an explanation in Chinese that I didn't really understand but assumed it was about the over-the-5-item-limit so I turned to the lady behind me--looking for solidarity and translation--and the cashier capitulated. Thankfully.

So, we went to get a cab. Somebody butted in front of me and took the cab. The next cab came and someone else went to get it. I put my hand on the door handle and scooted in while the other person "tsk"ed me. I told them I was waiting for the cab first.

Got in the cab and waited/waded through traffic. Then the cab driver pulled out a cigarette and lighted it. I hate hate hate that. I told him to stop smoking. He laughed at me. Until I pulled out my phone to call the cab company. He put the cigarette out and laughed again. After he dropped me off at home, he turned the cab around and drove away. He had his cigarette lighted and gave me a really dirty look.

I sound like a mean person. I have found, though, that if I don't stand up for myself, I'll never get a cab, I'll wait in line forever, and people in general will walk all over me. Not doing that. I hope that doesn't make me mean. Today was just one of those days.

Tomorrow I'm hoping for rapturous.


>> Thursday, July 9, 2009

My first blog post.

*Pause to feel the history of this moment.*

Now that that's done, I can get on to being myself. You know, a lot of my friends have blogs and I love reading them. They have such wonderful ways of expressing themselves. Family, friends, life, art all seem to roll off their fingertips and on to the page with creative genius. I, on the other hand, seem to wonder what to write. I don't have a particular focus--hence the kitchen sink--and I probably don't have anything profound to say.

Who knows, though. Maybe my mom will read it and see the pictures and like it. If so, that's all I really need. Maybe I'll print this out for my children to read, and maybe I won't.

I suppose all I can only hope that I can share a little bit of my life and self with someone. If that happens to be you, then I'm happy you're here.

So, here's to the blog.



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