Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bangkok: Oh Look! A Festival......

This past weekend I took a girls trip to Bangkok!  Two other expat friends were nice enough to let me tag along on their adventure.  We had a great time.  These ladies were much more experienced photographers than I so I will await their pictures before I post about the entire trip.  But... There were a few pictures they didn't get.

On Sunday, the third day we were in Bangkok, I decided to pass on the scheduled activities and have some down time since that is hard to come by these days (with homeschooling etc).

I attended church, had a fabulous lunch, and got a massage.  The plan was to meet up at 6pm for an evening bike tour of the city. 

I got back to back to my room at 4:30 and asked the hotel staff to write in Thai where I was supposed to go so I could show the taxi man.   They called the bike shop and confirmed that the bike ride was still on but said, "you need to leave now... it is pretty crowded down there."  I didn't think anything about it because everywhere in Bangkok is pretty crowded.

45 minutes later the taxi man started shooing me out of the taxi.  As far as I could tell I wasn't near my destination.  I asked him several times and he just said in his very broken English... "Can't drive."  Go this way... pointing in the direction he thought I should walk.  With apprehension I got out of the car.  I noticed a few men standing on top of some monster truck looking things waving flags.  Fun I thought, a street festival.

I started in the direction that the taxi man told me to walk.  There were tons of people that looked rather happy, some fun music, food, and lots of people doing foot massages.  The only thing that was a little weird was.....

There was a lot of red in every direction.  Everywhere I looked people were in red.  Oh.... this must be some sort of political thing I thought.....

There was a man on a loud speaker, lots of people waving heart shaped clappers, men selling balloons, all sorts of Thai snack food and lots of people getting foot massages.  It seemed rather friendly occasion.  I decided it would be fun to take pictures so I whipped out my camera.....of course.  I started to get a few stares... I was the only foreigner around (which is highly unusual for Bangkok) and I was taking pictures. 

I saw this guy and realized that it must be a political rally.  All of the shirts they were selling had a picture of a lady on them... Must be a political rally.   Still unaware of what the purpose of the rally was until I came upon this guy.......

Scrolled out in front of this guy was a banner about 1/2 of a football field in length and 2 ft wide of gruesome pictures of people who had been savagely beaten.  The air got sucked out of my chest.  After I snapped a picture of this guy I looked a little closer and realized that the feet hanging below him looked a little to real.

As with any situation (at least that I am in) where I am in shock it takes me a few minutes to realize what is going on.... I took a few more pictures....

And then the crowd started to get a little louder... the chants started becoming a little more infused with an angry feeling... I could not understand anything.

I wandered the crowd feeling a little worried that I was totally lost and I couldn't find my friends.....

 I rationalized in my head that I was still safe because all of these nice people where selling food and little old ladies were enjoying the festivities......

Thai Seafood Jerky anyone? 

But I was still horribly lost.  I finally asked a police man where I needed to go.... He said, "see that tank over there with the water hose......turn right and go down that street."  It was at this precise moment that I realized.... "I am in Thailand.  Things don't always turn out so well here.  I may be in danger."  I followed his directions and started to feel a little panic in my heart.

I walked down this back alley that brought me right into the HEART of the rally!  Egads.  It was at this point that I noticed the M-16's and hundreds of military officers standing around.... I ran and decided to ditch the effort to find my friends.

I ran but decided to snap this picture as I went towards freedom because it showed that the rally was an odd mix of little old ladies seeming very happy and lots of gore all in........ red.

I paid and enormous sum for my tuk tuk ride (200 baht for a ride that should have been 40 baht) because I couldn't find a taxi and this guy probably sensed my fear and knew he could charge me that. 

Finally made it back to the room and to my girlfriends.  They told me how scared they were because they had some context.  Apparently the last time they tried to come to Bangkok their trip was cancelled because the Red Shirts were protesting and the government had stopped everyone from coming in or out of Bangkok. 

After coming home M and I  looked up online and figured out that the Red Shirts  represent the United Front for Democracy and have not always been a peaceful bunch to put it nicely.  Sunday they were marking the 2006 coup anniversary that toppled their hero Thaksin Shinawatra.

History lesson learned in real time.....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Oh my hell, what's that smell?

By guest-blogger Martin Vaughan

It was a breezy Singapore night of the Mid-autumn festival and I was strolling through my neighborhood enjoying the holiday atmosphere. There were rows of hawkers selling cut-rate shoes and toiletries, families sporting the matching silks of their post-Ramadan celebratory get-up, rather dilapidated carnival rides that nonetheless didn’t fail to light up the faces of dozens of kids weaving through the crowd.
Then it was like a punch in the gut: my eyes watered, my throat got tight, I began coughing uncontrollably, looking around wildly for the source of the odor that had invaded my head. It was a stench at once intense and completely unfamiliar. Was it some kind of animal? A pile of rotting garbage that had caught fire? A napalm attack? To what subterranean circle of olfactory torment had I died and been condemned?
The culprit was a purveyor of stinky tofu, a local delicacy prepared by soaking bean curd in rotting milk, vegetables and meat. Then the stuff is deep-fried so all the neighborhood can enjoy its putrid aromas. And my friends, it’s not called stinky tofu for nothing.
Along the spectrum of unfortunate odors there are those that cause the nose to wrinkle only slightly, the mouth to turn down subtly at the corners. A musty closet, a mildewed washcloth. Most body smells are only mildly offensive this way (except for you, Rodney Jones, you are in a different category!) Also in this group I would put the local favorite fruit durian – which emits a sulfurous smell that reminds me of propane gas.
Then there are the overpowering smells, the ones that invoke disgust and maybe even queasiness. The feeling you city slickers get when in the vicinity of a pigsty. The Tupperware container with remnants of ham and lentil soup that had been forgotten for three days at the bottom of your work bag. That special corner of the stairwell or elevator that for unknown reasons has been christened by a series of anonymous pee-ers.
Last is the smell that is just truly sinister. The one that penetrates to the fight-or-flight center of your reptile brain, the one that sets millions of tiny messengers throughout your nervous system screaming, Get away! Put a couple football fields between yourself and that reeking mass and DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT ANY OF IT INTO YOUR MOUTH.
What quirk of evolutionary biology allows Asian stinky tofu-eaters to override these very sensible impulses? I have no understanding. What does the horrid stuff taste like? Ask someone with bigger stones than I’ve got. Am I a coward? Sure, but I will note that it is the only food that even Anthony Zimmern, of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, could not choke down.

mmmm... open wide.

The kids went wild for these rinky-dink rides

UPDATE: When I went to get a picture of the stinky tofu guy, he offered me some. I was scared, but what could I do? I didn't want to insult the dude. Thankfully, it tasted nowhere near as bad as it smelled. It tasted like . . . tofu, with a little ripe edge to it, like sharp cheddar cheese. It is served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce that is a nice complement to the gaminess of the tofu.

I ate three squares. The rest is probably still sitting in the bottom of the dumpster being avoided by cats and other garbage-pickers.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Victory and Defeat

This week ME had a week off of school.  I had a bad diaper experience that finally tipped the scale in the direction of this is worse to keep you in diapers than endure three days of hell and potty train you.  A friend sent me a really great potty training method called "three day boot camp."  I was totally committed to it and started on Tuesday.  The only serious caveat of this method is that you are supposed to never leave the child's side to do ANYTHING.  The first day I was vigilant and was rewarded by her doing number one w/o accidents right out of the gate.  The second day I became really overwhelmed by all of the mess that was accumulating around me by doing nothing but focusing on ME.

Which leads to the defeat part of the post.  I have always dreamed of a blog where these perfect mommy blogs show a glimpse of their real lives... The pictures of what the house really looks like on a regular basis.  Maybe they really do look perfect all of the time... but I hope not.  So during my intense focus on ME my house went to pot.  Dishes piled up, laundry sat, my room remains the dumping grounds, and a general sense of bleh set out over the house.

Day three and we broke, went to the library, I started picking up and ME had a number two accident while I was talking on the phone to a friend in the states.  I guess I failed the boot camp.  Bleh. 

So for now... I am just happy I will NEVER change a diaper (on my own child) again.... even if we will be working on the second part of potty training for a while!

I scheduled a mani/pedi, babysitters, and cleaners for tomorrow at noon. 

And the potty training begins by throwing out $15 worth of diapers.... The book told me to do it.  Ceremony.

Oh no!  What have we done.....

"tell me when you need to go potty...."

And the mess begins....

Second day evidence of escaping during her nap....

Bleh.  I hate not having a dishwasher..... Even some of the nicest condos in Singapore don't have dishwashers or AC in the kitchen's because they are designed with the idea that you will have a maid and why would you want to make her life any more comfortable?!

ME left her shoes outside the door during her nap :)  Everyone here takes their shoes off outside the house!

The throne... Thanks Sarah!

The dumping grounds of my bedroom....

But all this togetherness time did give me wonderful insite into the intense play that ME exists in every day and a chance to have a pretty cute helper all day long.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

G's 6th Birthday!!

Our sweet (sometimes) G turned 6 August 30th!   For what ever reason by the time I get to G's birthday every year I am tired :)  I got it together and we had a wonderful celebration of G's life on Tuesday.

She insisted that we go to Jurong Water Park (a total dive).  But... we had a wonderful time with our friends the Beiber's.... until the Indian workers started grabbing our children :)  When we go out from time to time there will be people not use to seeing children with the complexion of ours and their hands will literally start to twitch until the can't control themselves and they grab our kids in one way or another.  I let pinches, pats,  hair touching & taps go by but I draw the line at picking them up.  We left when the mob around the kids grew to big.

I have a very special spot in my heart for G.  She was born at a time in my life that was very hard.  She ended up being my calm in the storm.  I would nurse her and my heart would calm and all would be right in the world even if for just a moment.  She was always a content & quite baby.  Happy just to be with her momma.   She is still this way to a certain extent.

 Six years out and life it much much better and that hard moment passed.  G continues to be my snuggle bug and most affectionate child.  I adore you Ms. G.

One in the morning when I finally mustered the strength to decorate for the big reveal on her big day!  I hate this mirror in the dining room but you work with what you have right? 

"Grandma V remembered what I wanted!!" was all she could say when she opened these....

ME insisting it was HER birthday and these were HER toys!

G having lunch at the water park!

J Bieb!!

R Bieb!!

I frosted these with a fork... Because it is SO humid here you can't frost anything until right before you eat it.  I forgot the knife to frost them... sigh.

They would not cooperate with me.....

Maybe this will have to do!

Love you G.