28.3.13

Hello from Chiang Mai

So we made it. It was pretty uneventful. No children were lost in transit, or bags, so it was a pretty successful trip.

We had a travel buddy system to keep everyone from getting lost.
Which was good because they couldn't seat us all in the same row.
Of course, that's never the whole story, because every trip has it's happenings, but it's a good place to start.

For instance, Little, who inherited my hypoglycemia, didn't eat any of the food she was given the morning of our departure because her tummy was already in knots, so she ended up vomiting on herself in the car on the way to the airport. So there was that, a wardrobe change as soon as we arrived. Plus, we had a ton of luggage, and it seemed every elevator at LAX was closed for maintenance. We ended up in a completely different terminal just to get to the right level before walking back to the terminal we were supposed to be in. That was fun.

What followed was a lot of waiting. Which was the same everywhere. A group our size, with as much stuff as we had, meant we stood for what felt like a very long time while 3 or more people from the airline rushed around behind the counter and processed everything for us, or the immigration person processed our paper work, etc. I wasn't about to rush them. Better to let them figure it all out and make sure there were no mistakes so everything made it on the plane. Even if that meant asking the manager several questions at a time. I signed many waivers regarding my condition and flying.

A car seat for a toddler is a very good thing on a 14 hour flight.
He was content to stay still when tied down in it.
The stewardesses on our first flight to Shanghai gave me slippers and eye mask and toothbrush once they noticed I was pregnant. I was really grateful for the slippers. I was also glad to be close to the galley because they didn't give me nearly enough water at first and I got some very painful muscle cramps so I resorted to helping myself and filling up my bottle whenever it was empty. I must have finished at least 15 bottles of water on that flight. But, no more cramping. Also, it was a handy place to stretch out and move around.

mainland China


Shanghai was a horribly depressing airport, with cigarette smoke from the wide open smoking lounge door filling the gate where we waited. The flight wasn't much better, with rude passengers, lazy stewardesses and the heat on full blast for 4 straight hours. I don't recommend Shanghai Air.

Some people slept anyway.
And then we walked out into the wall of hot humid air in Bangkok, at 12:30am local time, and for the first time I thought to myself, "Good God, what have I done?"

Of course, we were all a little sleep deprived by then.

But the Bangkok airport, especially after Shanghai, makes capitalism look really, really good. Bright, clean, beautiful and huge. Not bad for a place that is a borderline 3rd world country still.

I was surprised by how some people had no problem budding in line in front of us going through immigration. They weren't Thai, but I'm used to the US and the way people at least pretend to be polite like that in such situations. I had to get vigilant about our spot.

I was also surprised, forgetting I suppose that it was 2:30 in the morning, by the guy at the airport food court, which was an amazing place full of good food for really cheap, who told me he wouldn't serve me because he was taking a nap. He was just sitting leaning on a mini fridge sleeping with the stall wide open. SO not something that would happen in the US.

swollen ankles
Then I cried because my kids refused to lie down and try to sleep during the early morning hours before we boarded our 8am flight to Chiang Mai and I didn't feel like I could lay down and rest until they did. But then I had a sane moment, an hour or 2 later, after I looked in a bathroom mirror and saw my ankles had swelled to the size of grapefruits, when I remembered that I had 2 fabulous helpers on this trip, who had actually slept on the last flight from Shanghai, and laid down on a bench and slept anyway and let them watch my kids. It was way better than nothing.



Bangkok Airways was a lovely way to conclude our air travel, with the biggest seats of the whole trip, and an nearly empty plane and stewardesses who spent all their time smiling at BamBam and entertaining him. Every kid got a window seat, Little finally got to sit next to me and was adorable the entire trip and we were there.

obligatory tourist shot
I was expecting to see Adam, and Cindy and Prang, or some variation thereof when we landed. But JourneyMama standing there with her baby was a wonderful surprise and I for sure cried, and just barely avoided a huge ugly cry. She's had 2 babies since I saw her last, that's how long it's been, and she made the 3 hour trip from where she lives into Chiang Mai in order to be there to greet us.

the gate
Sean and Prang's house, and our place of residence until after the baby is born.
It's been hot, but not horribly so. The nights get cool. The kids have woken around 4 am each day and taken a long time to go back to sleep thanks to jet lag, but they are adapting amazingly well. They are such good travelers. I was surprised how well they handled everything, and with what good spirits.

This was a very welcome sight.
We really are blessed to have the loveliest place to land, with family and friends and a comfortable house to stay in. I started making Prang let me help and do things because I need to find my way around her kitchen before she goes back up to the village next week. But I'm letting her cook, for now, (I say that like I have a choice about it) because her cooking is amazing, and the style and ingredients so different from what I'm used to that I really don't know what to do with a lot of the food in the fridge. I haven't recognized at least half of the vegetables that show up in our meals every day.

It's been 4 years since Little and Abby saw each other last.
They have been inseparable.

This is Prang. We went exploring in the muban. (That means neighborhood.) 
Some of you may be interested to learn that breakfast is just another meal. This morning it was chicken, rice, a green squash like vegetable stir fried with tomatoes and egg, and a chili sauce with fish in it. All very tasty, and totally more like dinner to me. Often it is just leftover dinner for breakfast. We breakfast on the porch while it is still cool outside, and by noon all the kids go inside because it's so hot.

Early morning view from the porch.
The one thing I miss is tea. I know it's available, I just can't find any in Prang's kitchen. Tonight she is going to show me the market and I will start to find my way around town.

Before I drive anywhere I need to get used to the fact that everything is backwards, and get a driver's license, though they tell me no one here cares if I have one or not. They drive on the left side of the road here, and the driver's seat is on the right, and all the way back from the airport I couldn't shake the feeling that Cindy was turning into the wrong lane.

So the adventure continues. But after the momentous effort of just getting here, the rest seems pretty doable right now.

Thanks for all your prayers and love as we made our journey.

24.3.13

Leaving, on a Jet Plane

So I woke up this morning with a pounding headache and stuffed sinuses. Now I know why BamBam spent a good 2 hours last night crying and yelling and stuff. We are all sick again. Just in time for a 24 hour international flight, plus 7 hours in the Bangkok airport waiting to board the final flight to Chiangmai.

The timing is spectacular.

But we're almost there, we've almost crossed the finish line. Final packing details wait today, weighing luggage once again, and making our travel buddy plan. I'm so grateful to have Alex and Nicole flying with me to help kid wrangle.

look, Visas!


Right now the Boy and Little are making German Pancakes with their auntie, my MIL has taken over organizing the kids stuff, and the kids have been soaking up as much fun as they can.

One last trip to the beach with Auntie Ana and Uncle Alex
BamBam discovered a new mode of transportation at a friends house.
At a picnic to say goodbye to Aaron's grandparents


I've been doing things like wondering if I should buy extra socks, and what we'll do in a country almost entirely devoid of toilet paper and the part where we're arriving at the height of hot season as Chiangmai lays under a blanket of smoke from all the field burning.

Also sorting through a mountain of paperwork and documents to decide what needs to come and what can stay

But, in less than 24 hours this part will all be over and we'll be waiting to board.

packing bins 

I plan to tell stories again on the other side.

I'm working really hard today to not think about all the goodbyes I don't have time left to say. I'm going to miss so many people.

So this is it friends. Signing off. Catch you on the other side.

Thank you for all your support on this journey.

Oh, and here's a belly photo just because.



8.3.13

Grace, never in short supply.

Well, we moved out of our house last week. And by we I mean the kids and I, and a ton of amazing friends and family, packed up our stuff and moved it to storage or donation bins over the course of 2 or 3 weeks and then cleaned up everything and stuff while Aaron spent 2 weeks in Florida working. Yeah, he was actually working, and got home a day after everything was already finished.

But he did, after a long series of flight delays that had him actually walking in the door to his parents house around 6am, go with me directly to the walk through with the landlords, which was the kind of story so unreal I have to tell it another time all in itself. In summary, we were their first ever tenants, they have very unrealistic expectations, and their interpretation of the legal requirements for tenants was somewhat extreme. Like, "You are going to have to clean those tiny dots around the recessed light wells caused by flies or we'll have to charge you to have it done." It remains to be seen what they will return of our damage deposit and whether or not we will have to go to arbitration to get the rest back.

Obviously they are going to have to hire someone to get this place move in ready.

It's such a pigsty.

Too bad we are such negligent tenants.

This room needs to be vacuumed again.

And of course something needs to be done about all the refuse in this yard. It has to be cleaned.
(It's hard to stay away from the sarcasm you guys. It was really ridiculous.)

But then Aaron stayed behind and cleaned up said light wells and other things while I left and napped, then went into work for a few hours, went to a really fun going away party that our friends put on for us, and finally actually slept 36 hours after he had woken up Friday morning in Florida.

My MIL kicked me out of my house sometime around 8pm moving day and made me go and rest, because, "Your baby is more important than all this." She and my sisters in law, and Ashley, and a few of my brothers in law as well, stayed behind and finished the clean up, and carted whatever was left back to her house later that night. They are awesome. Truly.

It doesn't seem to matter how long you pack ahead of time, or how many boxes you ship to storage, or how many bags of stuff and pieces of furniture you arrange to give away, when the final day actually comes, and everything gets emptied and carried out of your house, it is shocking how much stuff you didn't know you still had to deal with.

For the first 2 days after moving out of the house, I spent hours just going through boxes again and realizing I didn't want or need any of it anymore. But you have to go through them, because something important might be in there somewhere.

I have most things sorted and packed in storage now. Not counting a guest room stacked horrifyingly high with laundry, and boxes of paper work I need to finish actually working with before I can store them.

We are adjusting to the next few weeks with my in-laws, how that affects our daily rhythm, and I am trying to convince my weary body to going back to working at night after the kids are in bed, but that seem harder here, or I'm just more tired than I have been up to this point, because I keep having involuntary naps that leave me feeling leaden and more tired when I try to get up than I was before. Tonight, I am taking a break from going cross eyed looking at receipts and spreadsheets for the reporting I need to finish before I get on a plane with the excuse that I haven't blogged in way too long and I owe you an update.

Let me tell you about my friend Suzy, who threw this going away party for us.

Showing Bam Bam her turtles.



I'm always convicted/inspired/encouraged by the way this friend of mine serves her kids, and mine. They kept talking to her about what sorts of food they thought should be at "their going away party" and to my surprise she had all of those foods there for them. She also had a slip n slide and wading pool because it was a hot day. Her kids had a bucket list of things they wanted to be able to do with my kids before we left, so we did all those things, and it was awesome, and so, so sweet. The boys chopped wood, and they all rode down the hill in a go-cart, and played and wrestled, and when the day was over she thanked ME for coming and giving her family this day, which was a perfect gift to us as well. I tell you, inspiring and humbling at the same time.

They put together this little approximation of a bamboo hut for the girls .

This hen thought it was for her.


Aaron posing in the Go Cart, I missed getting pictures of the kids.
our host and his son built it together.
It was lovely to see everyone who came and have a little bit of time to talk and say goodbye and all of those things. We are so blessed and rich in our friends and community here and the goodbyes are a little hard.

So after a weekend of goodbyes, and send offs, I am now back to work, and sorting through the final piles of take, keep, and giveaway, adjusting to bandwidth limitations that are almost as bad as dial up, (it took almost half an hour to load the photos in this post that's how slow it is) while trying to keep track of a very adventurous 2 year old on 2 1/2 acres of property with dogs who have a tendency to fight with each other for affection from humans, even when the humans are caught in the middle, the possibility of snakes in the tall grass down in the lower field, ticks, and my dear MIL who is vey concerned about all of these things, and basically never being able to sit down and get any work done while he is awake because there are at least 10 doors out of which he can escape at any moment and take off straight for said field, dogs, snakes, etc.

Truthfully, it's more exhausting than moving, which may explain the sudden need to sleep all the time. Anyway, I'm sure it's all easier than the coming transition, so I am trying to suck it up and deal. Which doesn't mean I haven't labelled certain things in the fridge "Don't use this or the pregnant woman will cry when she finds it gone." Because I do. Blood sugar lows, plus hormones, plus transitions make the loss of the hummus you just bought, when you hadn't eaten any yet, a tear inducing event. Hi, I'm Carrien, I like my own space, and the addition of 4 grown up human bodies, plus the bodies of all 4 kids, all in the kitchen doing different things at the exact same time I am trying to finish dinner makes me feel a little crazy. Especially if there is shrieking. Nothing like a good dose of a lot of people to remind a girl just how introverted she really is. Good thing I really like all those people.

I'm choosing to believe that this time is a gift that will get us primed for the next phase of living with even more people for a time, in even more challenging circumstances. (Remind me again why I thought this was a good idea?)

Two weeks plus 3 days until we get on a plane.

So in summary, people are awesome, at least, my people are, and helped in amazing ways and did such thoughtful loving things for us, and, I am having a hard time adjusting to being around people. How's that for a walking contradiction?
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