will I be approached to have Ana join a modeling agency. "Your child is very cute. Please call me and send pictures." Yep! I'll get to that right away. (Truth be told Ana could barely be seen--she had on her coat, hat, etc. It's just because there are so few Caucasians here.) Once in the doctor's office I sat next to a boy model--I'm not joking!! I would guess he was around eight or nine, American, hair precisely gelled, talking away on his cell phone, and discussing his fees (he was making good money!!) with his mom. At the time I thought, "I would never want my child to be like this!" I've always said my children can be whatever they decide--well, changed my mind--no models in this family.
Although you can get printed Batik, this one is done by hand. Can you imagine the time it took to make all those lines/dots with wax? I'm loving it on my table--esp. since it covers up the stain left by some Chinese tissue paper--that stuff bleeds like crazy!!
The other day I walked out to do laundry and noticed these beautiful works of art! Life has not been easy or enjoyable lately, BUT I felt God clearly revealing something. If he can take my rather dingy porch windows and create a masterpiece, surely he can do something just as magnificent in my children's lives. Although I might only catch brief glimpses before it melts away, I need to keep these moments in the forefront of my mind.
Last night was the end of the Chinese New Year and boy were there a LOT of fireworks! The thing about fireworks here is that there are no safety regulations. You want set it off right between two buildings? Sure! You want to set off 10 at once? No problem! These are huge fireworks-very much 4th of July worthy. I remember my brothers being excited about setting off bottle rockets--boy would they have had fun growing up here! (I noticed this morning there were many extra street sweepers on hand to clean up all the firecracker/works leavings!)
We took a walk and snapped some photos of the Chinese New Year decorations. You'll notice that they all include red and gold. You might also recognize that tree! Yep, it was a Christmas tree and somehow they covered in red and gold. And that is why Chinese have so much in their savings :)
On Wednesday Matt took China and Mitike down to the Well while Ana and I strolled around the local vegetable market. When they got back we headed out for lunch. (I, very sadly, forgot to take my camera!!) Our intention was to go back and eat at the pizza place we ate at on Sunday. However, it was closed. This worked out for our benefit, because the next place we found was BETTER! We got three pizzas and homemade raviloli with a mushroom white sauce. It was amazing! The Italian owner served you himself and the quality of the food was fantastic. The best part? The price!! The pizzas were around four US dollars!! We then walked over to the Warorot Market. I wanted to go there because I heard there were a lot of fabrics--boy were there ever. In one store I bought six meters of fabric, two spools of thread, and six buttons for about six US dollars--how is that possible?? If I lived here I would be going to this area a lot. Again, it had more of an artsy feel, rather than being a tourist trap. Inside the market were all sorts of herbs and spices. If I wasn't so well stocked from Singapore, I would definitely have bought there.
I also want to note that because our flight doesn't leave until midnight, the owner of the hotel graciously let us stay in the room all day AT NO CHARGE! Matt really wasn't looking forward to sitting in the airport most of the day and this lets the kids swim and maybe even get a couple hours of sleep!
On Thursday we went to another more expat grocery store. We found Rice Kripies, Mac and Cheese, and some cream cheese at good prices. Our suitcases will be full of dirty laundry and food!
We ate local--chicken on a stick and sticky rice. The chicken had some Thai spices on it--so it had good flavor.
Then we stopped in a little store right in front of our hotel. They make flavored ice desserts. Matt and I shared a snowball--think ice, sweetened condensed milk, and flavoring---YUMMM! Ana enjoyed a strawberry icee that was as big as she was (and cost about .90 cents!!)
I'm bummed we didn't try it until the last day! If you stay at the Opium try out the "I Am" shop!
We have really appreciated our time at the well. We consider it a blessing to be able to meet with an experienced adoptive counselor. They are few and far between in Asia! I've liked his straight forward advice and the truthful way he told us we had a long road ahead of us--no sugar coating here! The staff have gone out of their way to make the Well a place of peace and healing. (Now if we only had a couple of months to stay here!)
We have really enjoyed our time staying at this hotel. It's brand new, very clean, and a bit off the beaten path--so quiet. I really like the attention they have paid to the details. It's decorated beautifully! The staff are top notch. They respond promptly and are very courteous.
We're staying in a two bedroom apartment. This has been super nice because we can all have some space. There are three flat screens! They even provide a DVD player which has been nice for some down time. (I finally got to see the Hobbit--yes, yes not quite legally!) The walls have hand painted designs. The kitchen has enough pots/pans for a basic meal and the fridge is slightly larger than usual hotel fridges. The master bath has a rain shower and a very big tub--Ana has had a great time "swimming" in it. I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone!
a third world country often means...overloaded power lines, no sidewalks, amazing fresh produce, cheap prices (you can't believe how cheap Dairy Queen is here--the kids have had ice cream at least five times!!), honking horns because of insane traffic, fantastic service, and a more deeply felt culture. I like it here!!
Our hotel is no where near where the Well (counseling center). So, every morning we walk out to the main road and look for red pickup trucks. They are priced reasonably (with some bargaining and no Thai). Just 3 or 4 US for a 20 minute ride. There are benches in the back and usually good air flow through the windows. All in all not a bad way to travel (for short trips).
I'm generally not much of a shopper, but when I can get unique things at cheap prices--watch out!! So, I drug my family to the Sunday Market. It was BETTER than the night market--more artsy, hand crafted things. (They also close down the street to cars and motorbikes.) On the way (we probably walked for about 45 minutes to get there), we saw sparkly walls (worthy of a picture in a five year olds mind), crossed the moat, and saw the ancient city wall.
We also saw some amazing Thai architecture. It is very ornate and detailed!
We enjoyed traditional Thai ices that were frozen in metal tubes and then iced--I had lemon--it was amazing! We also had some real Italian pizza (How do we know it was real--there were Italians there eating it!) Super yummy--I'm contemplating walking back down there for some more.
Of course we bought things, a hand dyed batik table runner, skirts, a hand beaded t-shirt, a silk tie, etc. FUN!! The Sunday Market is a must see in Chiang Mai!
We've been visiting a local grocery store called the Big C. In the back, tucked away, they have a clearance section. Matt was SO HAPPY to find six boxes of grape nuts for about 2.50 US each--the reason?? They are set to expire in a month. Don't worry! They won't last that long.
After eating lunch and crossing this rather shaky bridge, we finally got to ride the elephants. (I was worried that Ana would get stuck on the bridge, but she actually did better than many of the Asian women I watched!)
The girls rode on a rather tall male elephant because he could carry all three of us. The countryside is very beautiful.
We fed our elephants sugar cane and the mahout let Ana get down on the elephant's neck (she probably wasn't supposed to, but you only live once.)(Yes I photoshopped us out.)
Then we all got sprayed when the elephant sneezed!
We liked walking along in the river. It was much more shady and cool.
Here's Matt and China on their elephant.
Our mahout was very talkative and told us the ages of all the elephants, how much the elephants like giving rides more than logging, and how our elephant wasn't Thai, but had been rescued from somewhere else. It was a nice ride with enough hills to keep it exciting for the kids.
By this time Ana was DYING to get on an elephant--so I was very thankful that the elephant show was so interesting AND let you get up close and personal. The elephants were very calm and LOVED the bananas we were scammed into buying. All the elephants in the show were six and under--one as young as eighteen months.
They did such things as raising a flag, head stands, kicking a soccer ball (wouldn't want to be in the way of that ball), and bowling.
I had seen elephant painting before that resembled splotches on the page, but I was amazed with this elephant. He had amazing fine motor skills--not even sure Ana would have done as well as he did. You could tell he was thinking too. He really placed the brush where he wanted it and was able to retrace the trunk of the tree repeatedly. The end result? A tree that truly resembled the one behind him. I'm sure this took a lot of training, but he really seemed to enjoy it AND was quite proud of himself when he was done--you should have seen his bow and elephant smile!
Next, we were quicky led down the road and into the ox carts. Definitely a bumpy ride and not much to see except some local housing (complete with satellite dish!!!). We primarily rode on the road. I can't imagine riding in one of these on dirt roads! We always see tons of these carts in the countryside in India.
I was really thankful for the umbrella! It was really hot and sunny--the first day it's been like this.
As a side note we noticed that this was the retired European/American or Chinese tour. (Probably because there are more exciting zip line/tree top tours or trekking tours available.) We were THE ONLY younger caucasians with kids. It made me think how lucky our kids are--they are experiencing many things that many of their peers can't imagine.
We took a basic day tour on Saturday. The first thing we did was to take a very tame river boat ride. It lasted about a half an hour and didn't interest Ana in the slightest--she was too focused on riding the elephants (which ended up being last).
I enjoyed the peace and quiet, some beautiful trees, and our cute passengers--probably the boaters children.
It was interesting to watch them load the boats back on the truck (using a hydraulic lift on the back of a flatbed truck) to take them back up to the starting point. No more poling up the river--this is a very streamlined business!!
On our first day we pretty much spent the whole day at the well or at the nearby mall. Matt and I met with the counselor for about an hour and a half. He's great and very supportive. He's already given me several useful ideas, so I'm excited to talk with him more. We went to the local super store for lunch and to do some shopping. There are several things that are really a lot cheaper here. Since we're in an apartment, we've been cooking a simple meal each day so that we're not always eating out. In the afternoon the counselor observed China and Mitike in a play therapy session. By then we were all exhausted as we had gotten in at midnight the night before--we went back to the flat, ate, and went to bed. Mitike got some food poisoning, but was better by the morning.
On our second day, we decided to take it easy.
The kids played in the pool. It was a little chilly--so they did some sunning!
They got heart balloons from the staff.
After a nap, we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. It was pretty good!
Then we walked over to the night market. Chiang Mai has THE best night market! I love exploring. Matt does all the bargaining! I enjoyed looking and hope to go back another night.
It was pretty warm and Ana was tired out, so we stopped in McDonalds for some ice cream. We caught a red truck back to the hotel and got everyone in bed. Happy Birthday to me!
to be in the tropics again. Every place has it's own beauty, but the tropics hold a special place in my heart. I love the bold colors and as Ana says, "I can just put on shorts and shoes and go outside--no gloves, coat, or hat!"
We had FANTASTIC flights on Korean Air. The service was unbeatable. We got to go to the beginning of the line at check in because we had kids. The seats felt a lot more roomy than American airlines. I, as a general rule, DESPISE airplane food. On Korean Air it was amazing!(There was even a strawberry cheesecake ice cream!) Ana ate and drank more on the plane than she does on the ground! The kids also get treats, are served first, and have good in flight entertainment. We will definitely fly them again.