Broken Arm: Take 2

There is now another broken wrist in the family.

Today, almost three years after Mom broke her arm while hiking down from Refugio Piltriquitron in El Bolson, Argentina, we hiked up to Scout Lookout at Zion National Park in Utah. We arrived here yesterday after a long, icy drive through Oregon, Nevada, and Utah (fortunately, neither Dad nor I crashed the car, despite below-zero temperatures and 80 mph speed limits). This morning, after a high-calorie breakfast, I drove us into the park. 28 degrees Fahrenheit never seemed so warm.

We paid a visit to the visitors’ center-turned-shop before heading to the Court of Patriarchs. There, Ethan and I discovered the ease of letting ourselves slide down the icy hills while hanging onto the handrails. Mom did not enjoy this as much as we did.

We finalllllly found a parking spot at Zion Lodge. It was only a half-mile walk from the Grotto Trailhead, where we started hiking. Ethan had decided not to bring a backpack so I was stuck carrying his water bottle and his hat and gloves as he shed them.

Ethan and I were far ahead of the parents, but we stopped occasionally to let them catch up. The exposed switchbacks up the first mile or so were the hardest. After we entered a shady canyon, the going was easy until we reached eight switchbacks. At the top of those, we reached the infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Apparently these are really difficult, but they seemed very easy, not steep, and short. However, they were also very icy and snowy and we had to go slowly.

The infamous Walter's Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

The infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

Along the way, Ethan and I befriended siblings Ethan and Porsche. Ethan II advised Ethan I on ice hiking technique and the physics of friction. At the top of the Wiggles, we stopped at Scout Lookout while everyone else on the trail continued to Angel’s Landing. Because we didn’t have crampons or any other sort of shoe gear, we played it safe and did not go on.

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and I started down the canyon ahead of Mom and Dad. To take on icy Walter’s Wiggles, we slid down on our feet with our hands behind us, in the form of a crab. This worked well, but Ethan abandoned this approach when some grown men were coming down behind us. In his pride, he continued on down a switchback and out of my sight. Then the two men behind me, who were going much faster than me, exclaimed, “Are you all right?? What happened?”

That was when I saw Ethan, who was grimacing and clutching his left wrist. After assuring him that nothing was broken based on his mobility, the men continued on. And so did we.

We carefully picked our way down to Zion Lodge. We peeked in there and then returned to our hotel, where Mom and Dad set about trying to find a clinic that worked with our insurance. Mom and Ethan finally left for a clinic 40 minutes away. There, they determined that his radius was in fact fractured all the way through, though they only had to put him in a brace because the bone is still aligned.

The worst part about all this is that Ethan will still be able to take notes in AP government as he is right-handed (though he won’t be able to play the piano, saxophone, or guitar).

What’s New?

I’m glad you asked.

Since Christmas Eve, we’ve been quite busy. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Wednesday, January 1, we piled into the car for an eleven-hour ride to Schweitzer Ski Resort, where we spent four nights with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Five of the nine of us skied on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday was by far the best day, as it was sunny and clear. Meanwhile, back in the cabin, my dad cooked all day. On Greek night (Saturday night), he made everything from tzatziki and pita bread to stuffed peppers and white and milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry coulis, and a raspberry on top.

photo 1

It was delicious.

Soon, it was back to school. On January 25, Ethan’s 8th grade class had a talent show/auction fundraiser, and I contributed to both parts. For the cake auction, I baked a dozen chocolate-zucchini cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream. They sold for $60- up $20 from my cookies of 2012. I also asked my friend Charlotte to play the piano while I played the flute. Our song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen won first place.

photo 2

 

The following week was filled with tests, as it was end-of-semester finals for me. On the last day (Wednesday), I was thrilled when my band teacher asked me to join the school’s symphony, which is the most advanced instrumental group at my school. The next week was nerve-wracking, as I hardly knew anyone in the group and had to sight-read all the music. It’s been over a month-and-a-half since then, however, and I know that I have improved.

Last Friday (March 14, Pi Day) was the start of what I dubbed Music Week. On that day, I got to school early to join the symphony at South Eugene High School to play in a festival. It was our first attempt to qualify for the OSAA State Championships. We didn’t make it, unfortunately, but we had played well and our scores reflected that. Monday had piano lessons (as usual), and on Tuesday Ethan had his guitar lesson (also as usual). I was excited for Wednesday, which was the 12-hour trip to Ashland, Oregon, for the symphony’s second chance at states. We performed sub-par, and we returned home dejected. However, Thursday night’s amazing orchestra/symphony/band/jazz band concert more than made up for it, even though we knew our scores (which we hadn’t yet received) wouldn’t be good.

Then we found out today that we won districts by one point and had automatically qualified for the state championships, which are in May. As the only flute player in the symphony, I am terrified.

But I made a cake!

photo 4

And it was pretty darn good.

Ciao!

Chicken of the Sea

“Ethan! I dare you to swim out to that rock,” I called. “That one—out there!”

Ethan looked up from the shore and saw the black rock that I was pointing to. He gamely started swimming out to where Dad was, but he wasn’t trying very hard and kept being pushed back by the waves. Finally he got to the rock where Dad was, but kept turning back on his long swim out to the big rock because he was worried about jellyfish.

“You know how an iguana is called ‘chicken of the tree’?” I asked. “Well, you’re the chicken of the sea.”

He took offense to this comment and, gathering his pride and his courage, hastened out to the rock and back. Dare done, he sat back on the rocks next to me and enjoyed the warmth on what we nicknamed Jelly Belly Beach—the name was chosen due to the large number of small, round, colorful rocks on the water line that reminded us of one of our favorite snacks.

Ciao!

One Cool Pool

“We’re now on Crete, which is good, but that means there’s no more English,” Dad commented as we walked into the bakery. We were in Iraklion, the port city where we had landed and gotten our rental car after showers on the ferry, and we were hungry. The bakery was the perfect place to sate that hunger.

The subtitles of the pastries were in English (Dad was wrong), and I chose a slice of spinach pie and a mini sugar-covered donut. Mom and Ethan also chose mini sugar-covered donuts, but Ethan had a cheesy pastry and Mom had two mini spinach pies and one mini cheese pie. Dad ordered a tomato-and-olive ring and a chocolate-frosted mini donut. We ate in the car our drive to our house.

We were greeted by the owner’s sister-in-law when we arrived. According to the car, it was 23°C (73.4°F). It was much, much cooler than it had been in Athens, and the crystal-clear pool in the backyard didn’t seem so inviting.

Dad napped, and then we were back on the road to get groceries. After driving through Rethymno, Crete’s third-largest city, we settled on the Lidl supermarket in our village called Agia Triada. We bought—along with foodstuff including garlic, frozen ravioli, orange-chocolate cookies, and bell peppers—soap, laundry soap, and the cheapest serviettes we could find: we bought three packages. The available bright colors were tangerine, yellow, pink, green, and dark purple. Guess what? We didn’t get pink! Ethan originally chose tangerine, yellow, and pink, but then he discovered the green and purple. After I vetoed the purple, he selected the green. It went well with neither pink and yellow nor pink and tangerine, so I reluctantly dropped the pink. We used white ones from the bakery for dinner, though, so my pain was not even recognized.

 

Upon our return, I happily organized the groceries in our kitchen before heading upstairs to my room. Realizing I’d left my Kindle downstairs in the living room, I dashed down to get it. Ethan was lounging on the couch reading, and I asked him why he hadn’t been swimming—he who had seemed so ready to jump into a pool in Athens at the drop of a hat.

“I don’t know” being the standard response to everything, that was as much as I got. But within five minutes, he was out in the pool. I joined him and Dad outside shortly thereafter, while Mom slaved over a hot stove in the kitchen. After lounging in the sun and reading for a few minutes, I eventually gathered my courage and slipped into the cool pool. Ethan was convinced and returned to enjoy the shallow waters. The shadows were getting longer, and before the whole pool was in the shade Ethan had retreated to the concrete and his towel. I stayed in the pool doing backflips until ten minutes before supper, which was salad, green beans, and pasta with tomato sauce and chicken.

Ciao!

It’s All Greek to Me: Day Two

Moment of the day: Making it as difficult as possible to answer Ethan’s trivia questions about Lord of the Rings since (a) I had no idea who he was talking about, (b) I was trying to annoy and dissuade him, and (c) I was really enjoying called Mary Adoch (or whatever their name is) a ‘she’ when apparently they’re a guy.

Food of the day: The delicious rice-stuffed tomato for supper!! It tasted a bit like the grape leaf rolls we got from Costco at home—a.k.a. they were delicious.

Treat of the day: My delicious chocolate dessert from our favorite patisserie. It is a chocolate mousse shaped like a dome, with a chocolate coating. It had sliced almonds sticking out of it with two white chocolate chips and one red one: the red one was the nose, the white ones were the eyes, and the almonds were the spines on the porcupine.

Person of the day: The guards outside the parliament building, who wore tights, khaki skirts with their khaki shirts, and red shoes with big black fluff balls on the end. We watched the changing of the guard, which happens every hour on the hour.

Place of the day: The National Archaeology Museum, where we saw statues, statues, and more statues. The most interesting ones (in my opinion) were the ones found in the bottom of the Mediterranean. Many of the statues are partially perfect and partially destroyed. The perfect parts were in the ground below the water. The damaged parts were ruined by microscopic sea creatures.

Disappointment of the day: Finding out that Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas didn’t win Dancing with the Stars and placed fourth—but at least Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough won!

Ciao!

Who’s On First?

“Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen… fluorine, neon, lithium—wait, no!” Ethan exclaimed. He was trying to recite the first 50 elements (from hydrogen to tin) on the Periodic Table of the Elements in a short period of time. My record is 19.49 seconds.

 

We were on our way to Grindelwald from Kleine Scheidegg. After riding the train, we got on the gondola to First. Passing through the Bort stop (we didn’t abort), Ethan exclaimed, “Restez assis!”

“What?”

“Look at the sign!”—which read ‘Keep your seat.’ (You didn’t have to get out of the gondola at that stop.)

At First, we got off and walked on the snow-lined road to a frozen lake. On the way back, Ethan and I snacked on a lemon-ginger chocolate bar before we were stopped in our tracks by a mini-avalanche. This mini-avalanche was on a mountain across the valley but was still quite loud and obvious.

 

On our way back down, we stopped at Bort and Ethan and I played on the playground. In Grindelwald, we stopped at the supermarket for groceries such as chocolate bars and chicken.

Ciao!

Fire & Ice

We tried going to the base of Staubbachfall first, but the gate at the bottom of the trail was closed due to it not being summer. So we walked for another hour-and-a-half before getting to Trummelbachfall. After paying the 30-franc (US$30) fee, we were in.

Up the ascensor we went, and we were reminded of Valparaíso. At the top we went up the stairs to chutes 6-10. Trummelbachfall is a series of falls in the mountain. The water on the rocks drips and drops and it’s cold and wet as you stand near the wall to get a better view of the falls.

After viewing chutes 1-5, we wandered back to a picnic table by the creek, where we ate an almond chocolate bar and Dad read us a BBC article on grammar– especially apostrophes.

 

In Kleine Scheidegg, after riding the train, it was sunny (totally unlike yesterday, when it had been snowing). Ethan instantly ran to the snow and started chucking snowballs at us.

“I don’t know how he does it, but he misses every time,” I noted.

“Ready… aim… FIRE!” Ethan hollered, missing again.

“Seems more like ice to me.”

 

We caught the 17:31 train back down to Lauterbrunnen, and Ethan hung his jeans over a chair to dry. They were wet after I threw Ethan into the snow.

Ciao!

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We visited four towns besides Semur-en-Auxois, as well as one special site, today:

  1. Salmaise– This was the biggest town, and we parked by the church. We looked for the patisserie, as advertised on the tourist map, but we didn’t find it. The lavarie, which was a bathing area, was deserted but Ethan and I posed for pictures anyway.
  2. Sources de la Seine– At the source of the Seine River, the French have built a fountain and a concrete grotto. We stood at the top of the first bridge over the little stream while Dad took a picture.
  3. Frôlois– We looked for the chateau at the next little town, and we found it: a large castle-like structure on the hill above. Once at the top, we could hear someone practicing songs on a piano and the bees humming, but we couldn’t admire the view since some people had built houses in the way.
  4. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain– The anise factory in the next little town sold candy, and we were sure to get some. Mom, Ethan, and I took a much-needed stop at the toilettes, which were purple. Then a woman came in and said something quite loudly while gesturing at Ethan: there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom.
  5. Fouilles d’Alesia– This was not intended to be our last stop, but, because of the late hour, it was. We walked around a Gaul-Roman town, admiring the rather short and deteriorated structures. Ethan and I worked on the activity booklets that we’d been given since we’re just so young.

Ciao!

Happy Flowers and Plenty of Capers

Sacsaywaman was our destination today (pronounced like “sexy woman”). Well, it was our goal. We didn’t actually make it in because it was 70 soles (about US$30) per person—that wasn’t gonna happen.

So we walked down the hill and up the hill to El Cristo Blanco, the white Christ. You can see the statue at night from Plaza de Armas since it’s lit up like the statue in Rio—it’s not as big, though.

Dad took a lot of pictures (of course) and then we walked down a loooong set of stairs and to our plaza, then on to Pan…tastico! (That’s the name of our B&B.)After a little while, we left for supper at Pachapapa. It was closed, as before, so instead we went to Sara, which is the Quechua word for corn.  All of us had pasta: Ethan had ravioli, Dad selected spaghetti, and Mom and I chose rigatoni. All four had different sauces. Mine was the most flavorful. It’s a good thing I like capers (a lot) because that sauce was very, very caper-y.

I decided not to have ice cream (since we’d already had waffles at The Meeting Place, where I also beat Ethan at Scrabble), but Dad and Ethan decided on chocolate. We ate by the puma fountain, which we’ve passed many, many times.

“There’s a wedding,” Ethan announced.

“Huh?”

“A car with flowers on it drove by.”

“How do you know it wasn’t a funeral?”

“They were happy flowers.”

Ciao!

Ethan’s Getting Old…

Ethan’s birthday is here today

So we all had better say ‘Hurray!’

We rode a bus for eleven hours

And all started off with cold showers

We waited in a bus station

Waiting for some information

About the bus that was going to

Arica, and the desert too

We played Temple Run too long

And I listened to 1D’s song

We each died hundred of times on

Temple Run but kept playing on

In evening light we reached our place

Of destination, hoping for space

In a taxi to Europcar

Where we watched the man go afar

We watched for his counterpart

Who must have decided to depart

While her customers were waiting,

Waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting

Our driver eventually took us out

To our hostel, where we had a bout

With the woman who gave us a key

To room number five-plus-three

In it were only two twin beds

Nowhere for two to put their heads

She went back to the counter and looks

To see if she did it right with the books

Apologetic, she came back

Apparently they seem to lack

Two rooms for a family of four

Ethan and I went knocking on the door

Of number nine, while the parents came up

Then I realized we had nowhere to sup

And that there was only room for two

So there was some more hullabaloo

We finally got a second room

Dad found a place for supper and zoom!

We were out the door and walking

Stopping, seeing it closed and gawking

Gawking at the sign that said,

‘Closed til March 4’ in big red

So off we went, right down the street

Looking for some place to eat

We decided on some pizza

And got it with pig meat- some

Person behind the counter had

Apparently understood them bad

So we all looked forward to the ice

Cream with glad and tired eyes

We took a half liter home with us

Mom bought a muffin in the fuss

We ate the chocolate ice cream

Manjar chips and mango dream

And the banana split til we

Were ready for the birthday he

To open his gifts and watch

The slideshow, made with no botch

By Eryn dearest who sacrificed

Hours of time that were painfully iced

We all got to bed far too late

And wished for morning please to wait

But sun will come how it knows how

And I will say good-night and Ciao!

Salty Seas in the Salar

A lagoon was our destination today. It is in Salar de Atacama. It was about 30% salt, making floating easy and swimming next to impossible (according to Ethan—the rest of us declined to do anything but wade). Towards the bottom of the lagoon is lithium. Salar de Atacama is, in fact, the world’s best (largest and purest) source of lithium. It produces 30% of the world’s lithium carbonate, followed by China.

We rode in a bus there with twenty of our new best friends after a rather uneventful morning. Well, there was one exception: Dad cut part of Mom’s cast off with a table knife.

 

“When you write your post, make sure the audience knows that he had the doctor’s permission,” Mom told Ethan and I at supper. “Don’t let them think that it was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on my arm.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “It was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on your arm on doctor’s orders.”

Mom’s doctor in Valdivia gave permission for Dad to cut the cast down to below the elbow as he was worried about elbow movement. This was last resort—he expected there to be a doctor in San Pedro de Atacama with a saw. He was wrong, but several inches of the cast were removed, along with zero bits of flesh.

 

Once we got home from the lagoon, Ethan rinsed off the salt and Dad asked Pancho, the owner of our hostel, about a place for supper. We went to a pizzeria that, much to Dad’s delight, had thin crust. We ordered two family sized pizzas and a salad. The pizzas were chicken, corn, and red pepper and avocado, palm heart, and mushroom. Both were very good, especially once thoroughly doused with vinegar.

Ciao!

Tights-Rope Walker

It was nice not to be blinded by the lights outside last night or awakened by yowling cats.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel before heading out, knowing we had to have mote con huesillo now or never. We walked along Rio Calle Calle, rounded the corner, and found a vendor selling mote con huesillo. Dad sent Ethan over to buy the drinks. He finally returned, the cups full to overflowing, and we walked over to the steps to sit down so that Mom could handle the spoon. The syrup originally seemed sickly sweet, but the peach juice started to seep into the sugary water, and it tasted better.

When we were done, I noticed that some foolish pedestrian had spit their gum onto the step where my leg was. That was so gross.

We walked farther down the river to a man who was helping kids walk across a two-inch belt of elastic. It was four feet in the air and not very comfortable to fall upon with it between your legs. At least, I’m assuming that. The guy who did that didn’t look very happy.

Ethan did it, and the man who helped him was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and black tights. So Ethan and I dubbed him The Tights-Rope Walker. Ethan only fell off once, but there is photographic evidence. We walked around aimlessly some more, had pizza on the island, and eventually wandered back to the hostel where we got our luggage before trudging down the street to the bus station where we got on the Tur-Bus. It actually wasn’t late!

Ciao!

Rafting the Rapids

Well, because of my mother’s arm issue, we couldn’t do some things today, but we could do others. We woke up this morning at about 9-10 a.m. and did everything about breakfast that needed to be done. After that, Eryn and I played with the other kids and said goodbye to two of the rowdiest kids; Phillipe and Manuel. After they both had left with their mother in their car, Juan, his father, and his mother went out to get a new bicycle tire for someone’s bike. While they were gone, I observed Eryn and Paz making bracelets.

When Juan and family got back, he and I played some more before my parents decided that it was time to leave. We went out to a local ice cream shop and bought a kilo of ice cream ‘for the road.’ In all actuality, it wasn’t for the road, it was for the time when we got to the Rio Azul.

As we had gone that way before, it seemed that we got to the campground a lot sooner than last time. When we got down to the Rio, we went right on the path and up till there was a bench, where we ate the kilo of ice cream. From there, we walked a ways before sitting on a corner of the river next to some rapids. We waded and waited there, while throwing and skipping stones across the water and under hill and over hill. Eventually, we saw a little red kayak come down the river, and the rider steered her way through the rapids quickly and expertly. On the far bank, she pulled up and got out a camera to take pictures of what was to come.

What was to come was actually three large rubber rafts. They were filled on the sides with 6-12 paddlers each. Each of the three colorful crafts made it through the rapids fine, but the last one; a blue one, made it the best, going right through the middle without hitting either bank, like the other ones had. When it was over, I wanted to raft a river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

French Fries in Italian Restaurants

We found another ice cream place! It’s called Sumo, and we got a quarter kilogram. Half is raspberry mousse and the other half is a really good chocolate flavor. That was after tasty supper of arroz con pollo, made by the Colombian woman who runs the restaurant next door. Thankfully some English-speaking Colombian tourists translated the verbal menu for us. Mom had thought that the restaurant was Italian because of the red and green decorations.

When we got our food, it was a pile of orange rice in the middle with a dob of ketchup on top and some yellowish brown things surrounding it.

“What’s this?” Ethan asked. “The chicken?” We all stared at him. Dad broke the silence. “Chicken? That’s a French fry.”

Today was a down day, so the only thing we did was go to the market in Plaza Dorrego. We all got fresh-squeezed orange juice, which will help Mom with her cold.

Anyway, I need to go. Everyone is watching old TV shows, like Hee Haw, without me.

Ciao!

Coffee, Cuts, and Cinnamon

Today was filled with haircuts (my hair looks straight now!!!) and sending souvenirs home. We’re just hoping that all three boxes make it to Oregon as there are three undeclared items that are also probably not allowed: two porcupine quills and one warthog tusks.

Both were taken from around Koster: Oom Dennis gave Ethan the tusk and we found the quills while on a walk around Oom Dennis’s old property. Some of the other things in the boxes include books that have been read by Mom, Ethan, and me, clothes from our camel trek in India, a shirt that I brought, the tie Dad got for Christmas, the bowl Ethan gave Mom for Christmas, and the guineafowl dessert bowls that Mom bought at the V&A. Most of it is fragile.

Between our haircuts and home, we met the male half of our troop at Mugg & Bean where I ordered a Mexicocoa and Mom got a Café Mocha. Dad had ordered the Mexicocoa earlier, as Ethan had the mocha. They were also sharing a banana chocolate waffle. My Mexicocoa came with whipped cream, chocolate chips, a cinnamon stick, and whole lot of nasty texture. (I didn’t really care for it.) Ethan wanted to try my cinnamon stick, so I gave it to him. “Ethan, I don’t really think you should—” Mom started. I motioned her to stop. Ethan bit it and, with extreme self-control, asked Mom for a sip of her mocha. I asked what he thought; he said it was disgusting.

We already knew that.

Ciao!

Massive Mesa

We finally went to the top of Table Mountain, one of the new seven wonders of the natural world, today. Some of the other seven include the Amazon, a waterfall in South America, Komodo Island, a bay in Vietnam, and an island in South Korea.

We got in the queue at 7:15 this morning. Ethan and I hunkered down and read our books—he read Under the Blood-Red Sun while I finished Lost in the Barrens. When we had each turned the last page, we switched. We were on the first cable car up at 8:05. The whole ride is only supposed to take four minutes, and everyone who’s near a window gets a 360-degree view as the car spins throughout the ride.

Once at the top we looked down at Cape Town and then walked for about an hour to the tallest point on Table Mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. Ethan and I added a stone to the top of the post on top of the cairn, making the mountain an inch taller than it used to be. We hung out there for a while before the tablecloth started coming in. It came on fast: as soon as Devil’s Peak was covered, we started seeing clouds and feeling a chill. Ethan found a klipspringer, the first for all of us, but we could only really see its silhouette because of the clouds.

We eventually returned to the station. Ethan and I searched for good Magnums in the café, but they only had Almond, Classic, and Biscotti. I like Biscotti, but Dad doesn’t really. So instead we ate the mint Tim-Tams in the backpack Ethan carried. We decided to leave the mountain at about one because it was really cold with the wind and clouds and you could only occasionally see Cape Town through the clouds.

The ride down on the Visa-branded, protea-spotted cable car was uneventful. We saw several people abseiling down the cliffs. At the bottom we stopped a minute to thaw, and soon we were sweating and sunburnt (technically we were sunburnt before the tablecloth came in, but whatever). No more people could go up to the top except the staff.

Dad didn’t really want to leave so soon.

Ciao!

I Had a Great Idea For a Title, But I Forgot What It Was

Today we went to church in a little town called Plumstead. It really is tiny—because we didn’t want to go through an intersection on Main Road, we turned right ahead of time. We drove down the street 500 meters and passed through Plumstead, which we had only just entered on the highway.

After church, we went home where we read and sorted pictures. Two hours later, we walked down the street to Gelato’s at Newport, where Ethan got chocolate fudge and Oreo ice cream, Mom got chocolate fudge in a cone, and Dad and I both got Bar One and chocolate fudge. The ice cream wasn’t so eager to melt this time as it was last time, so we walked a ways down the Promenade before coming to rest on a bench. Ethan tried to get wet from the waves.

“Why do you have water dripping out of the front of your pants?” Dad asked. Ethan blushed: “It’s not on the front of my pants!” (it was).

We returned home and I looked online for supper. We ended up going to Jewel of India, nicknamed Cruel to India by reviewers and Drool of India by Dad. We ordered three mains, plain rice, a platter with some samosas and things like that, and garlic naan, just like we did in India. The naan, samosas &co., and sauces were good, and so were the paneer (dish with cheese) and chicken curry. The aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) had some weird spice in it, making it rather unenjoyable.

We drove home from the V&A after Ethan had checked the hours of Mugg & Bean, home to the Mexicocoa and Caribbean mocha (it has coconut). We went for a walk on the Promenade, called Dad’s dad, and returned to our warm apartment.

Ciao!

A Box and Blue Stingrays

We spent another day at the V&A Waterfront, but this time it was in the Two Oceans Aquarium. We walked through the Atlantic and Indian Ocean displays and the tank with the sign “Nemos”. There were huge eels and little octopi, white jellyfish and pink seahorses, rockhopper penguins and tree frogs. Quite a mix, I suppose. We saw the feeding of the African penguins at 2:30. They were fed dead fish from a bucket. The oystercatcher hanging around found a fish on the ground and poked the eyes out. Once the fish could no longer see, the bird ate parts of the fish after rinsing them in seawater.

By three, we were sitting on the steps in front of the I&J Predator Display. Our presenter, Yvonne, talked about preserving fish, etc. (She really did say “etc.” a lot.) She also introduced the little five-year-old green turtle Cannelloni, who had gotten on the wrong side of a shark’s teeth before during feeding time. So she was put in a cage with blacked out walls. The ragged tooth sharks circled the yellowtail tuna and blue stingrays, never eating. Yvonne said, “These sharks are too small to eat you whole or take chunks out of you.” “Aw,” murmured the disappointed little girl in front of me.

Once we got home, we opened our box from home-home. There were books for school, notebooks, presents from relatives, a Lego magazine for Ethan, three magazines for me, and candy canes from our renters. Thank you to everyone who donated stuff to make the box overflow!

Ciao!

Movie Madness

When Ethan gets back home, he wants to read Lord of the Rings. He was inspired while watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure this afternoon. It started out with an old Bilbo Baggins writing to Frodo, his nephew, and ended with the same Bilbo, but younger, saying, “I do believe the worst is behind us.” It’s the first part of Bilbo’s three-part story based on The Hobbit. It was good, even though the whole time after the goblins, I was thinking, Put on your ring! Put on your ring!
We spent the whole day in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. First we walked around looking for a place to drink mochas with wi-fi. Try as we did, we never found that place. So, after leaving Spur, Dad returned to the car, Ethan wandered off by himself, and Mom and I looked at the various stores on the first floor. Eventually, we came out of Edgars, where we found Ethan waiting for us. He and I bid adieu to Mom and went down to the ground floor, where I discovered a Clicks. Inside, I found my Twisted Pink nail polish, but it cost a whopping fifty rand (about US$5.50). I saved my money for later.
Ethan and I split up, and I headed to Exclusive Books, where I browsed the bookshelves, looking for, and finally finding, a certain book. I also learned that the bookstore has The Far Side books. It also had 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa, which is the partner of 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, part of our homework curriculum (courtesy of Dad).
By 12:55, I was at the Nu-Movie cinemas where we watched the movie. Afterwards, Mom went shopping at Pick n Pay and Dad, Ethan, and I had ice cream at Love Revenge Cappuccino. Each had two of tiramisu, crème brulee, and Nutella.
Ciao!

Many Mini Marvels (Isn’t it Marvelous??)

I won at mini-golf again!

Of course, you know what that means. The winner averaged 3 points per hole, with 54 total. In second place, we had 69 points, followed by a close third with seventy. I got seventy-four. In the first half, I actually beat the 3rd placer. But obviously that was not a permanent thing.

We played after spending late morning and early afternoon in the center of town, looking at the Country’s Gardens, the castle, the cathedral, and the Green Market Square, where we looked at the necklaces, paintings, and shark skulls. We decided not to tour the castle today and opted instead to get ice cream: chocolate chip for Dad, mango-strawberry and chocolate chip for Mom, walnut coffee and chocolate chip for Ethan, and mango-strawberry and chocolate almond for me. We also got flowers—a king protea, ten pink roses, and some other flowers—for our flat.

Ciao!

Putt-Putt Police

Mom, Ethan, and I went on the “more easy” mini golf course (the other option was plain old “easy”) today. None of us beat the Junior’s or Men’s record of the day—41—and none of us beat the Women’s—48—either. Mom earned 57 points, Ethan was second with 66, and I won (by getting the most points, of course) with 83. My worst two holes—numbers 14 and 3—were cut short by our 10-hit limit (thank goodness).

Ethan was the only one to hit a hole-in-one—coincidentally on #14, which, as you should recall, I bombed. Mom got 5, making our average for that hole 5.33. My best holes were 12, 13, and 17. I scored 2 on each of those. On 12, each earned a 2. For 13, I actually received the fewest points while Ethan got 3 and Mom got 4. On 17, Mom and I got 2 while Ethan got 3. Mom’s best holes were 1, 8, 12, and 17. Her average for the first nine was three.

Her worst holes were 3, 14, and 16—she got 5 on each. Ethan’s best hole was 14 (getting the only hole-in-one) while his worst was 3, where he got 8. (Yeah, 3 was not our best hole…)

Ethan was sometimes a little too flexible about how far away his black golf ball was from the edge of the course, so I—the honorary Putt-Putt Police—“helped” him place it in the correct position.

Ciao!

Fotographic Fun

We didn’t really do anything spectacularly interesting today, but we did extend our stay in South Africa to January 2 after learning that our visas would expire December 20th. So we applied for extensions and finished paying after three hours in and two visits to the Home Office. In between those two visits, I made brownies. When they were cut, there were twelve.

Now there’s none. (They were very good, if I may say so myself, even if they were from a Pillsbury mix.)

We stopped at Signal Hill on the way home, where we finished off the brownies, read more (in my case, 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, including the likes of Chad le Clos, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill, an honorary addition), and finally left to stroll on the Promenade. Ethan and I played Escape on the playground, but he accused me of cheating (liar!) because he couldn’t cross the monkey bars.

He went to check the times and prices for the putt-putt place down the street. Meanwhile, I was photographed by the guy wearing a blue shirt. He was part of a photo shoot but apparently had gotten bored and was taking a picture of anything and everything—including me standing dead still at the edge of the Promenade, staring at the water, and once in a while looking back for Ethan.

The brother in question finally returned, told us all we needed to know, and we returned to our flat.

Ciao!

Pretty Little Penguins

I think Bella, my stuffed penguin from home, is much cuter than the African penguins we saw on the beach at Simonstown today. We drove from our B&B in Somerset West to our original accommodations, where we had a breakfast of toast, fruit, cheese, chocolate muffins, and orange juice. We said good-bye and, after I downloaded Grace, Gold, and Glory on my Kindle, were on our way.

After several traffic delays, we arrived at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where we saw lots of the African penguins. From there we entered Table Mountain National Park. We drove to the Buffelsfontein Visitors’ Centre, where we got our keys and a map. We then drove to the death march start near the original Cape Point lighthouse. It was too high, making it hard to see with fog and mist, so the new lighthouse is down about 150 meters or so.

We walked up the hill, envying the people riding on the Flying Dutchman tram, all the way to the lighthouse. We then went a little farther out on the point, as far as us mere mortals are allowed to go. (We also saw three tourists illegally pass that point.) We climbed back up to the lighthouse and went to the gift shop, where Ethan bought a bottle of seawater. We slowly slowly returned to our car, stopping at almost every viewpoint along the way.

We then went to the southwesternmost point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. We took a picture, examined a dead bird, and then went on to Olifantsbos Cottage, where we’re staying the night. Ethan and I constructed a fort against the side of a boulder on the beach made of rocks, sticks, and boards washed up on the beach. Ethan’s worried the tide, which comes right up to the bushes, will wash it away.

We had pasta and zucchini for supper, after which we went out to the beach for a sunset walk. We heard the baboons on the hill calling to each other as Ethan and I showed the parental units the fort. Ethan wanted to race to Dad, but I didn’t want to. “Why don’t you race?” he demanded. “Because this is a non-racist country,” I replied sarcastically. In the end, I did race… and won, of course!

The little bugs on the sand drove us insane… and away from the beach, so we retreated to the cottage where we enjoyed a Cadbury bar.

Ciao!

Bitey Fishes and Rusty Mushrooms

We slept in til eight today, so we had a late breakfast and, by default, a late start. We decided to visit the lighthouse first and then do the death march in the afternoon. Before climbing to the top of the lighthouse, though, we stopped by the Meisho Maru (sure sounds like mushroom!) wreck where Ethan climbed and I petted fishes (although they tried to bite me in return).

At the red-and-white striped lighthouse, we climbed as high as we could go. The museum was closed, but Ethan and I entertained ourselves with 20 Questions until Dad—who dislikes 20 Questions—told us to stop. I got black rhino correctly, but Ethan couldn’t get tsessebe, oribi, or Cape turtle dove. (The tsessebe and oribi are both types of antelope that live in South Africa.)

We returned to our chalet and then headed out on our “blue” death march—our other options were the 10.2-kilometer yellow death march or the 4.2-kilometer red death march. Thankfully, we chose the blue, which is only three kilometers. After crossing the road, we saw a sign that read

Archaeological and Historical Site

Strictly No Entry

Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

Ethan freaked out and refused to move and “break the law.” We finally made him go, and when we went down a fynbos-covered dune, I found a dead puff adder. It was squished for some reason, but I picked it up and it is sitting ten feet away from me right now in our chalet. Ethan refused to touch it.

We went to the blowholes, which don’t really blow, and finally passed the lagoon and reception before returning to Chalet 2. After much searching, I decided that we would just have to wing it for supper. We enjoyed pasta and fish at SeaGulls’, where I called a friend from home.

Ciao!

Unhappy at The Haven

Ethan was very sad to have to say good-bye to Sophia and Josi this morning… not. Josi didn’t even show up, and we only saw Sophia after breakfast when she showed off her aerials on the trampoline. Ethan probably was sad to say good-bye to Rocky, Socks, Teddy, Strider, Alto, the horses’ handler, Dayne, and the dog, Rambo.

We weren’t sad to leave the hubbub of the Christmas-party-holding company of forty who ate a lot of meat, bread, and croissants at breakfast. Our favorite village health researcher, Steena, had breakfast after we left. Last night she ate with Dayne. Matthew, the cook, walked by after taking our drinks orders (two still waters, one Appletizer, and one Red Grapetizer) and said, “Aren’t you part of the staff?” Dayne nodded and said, “Yeah, you can arrest me later.”

The staff table was mainly empty last night. Only Sharmane, the girls’ teacher, and Brandon ate while we were there. Sophia and Josi must have been kicked out because of the party.

We also said good-bye to Ashley, the other cook who made the lettuce-and-apple soup, at breakfast. He seemed surprised that we were already leaving for Knysna. We’re not already in Knysna, though. It’s six o’clock and we’ve been on the road since nine. Our GPS (aka the voice of the Australian Karen) predicts our arrival to be in three hours. That’s twelve hours of driving for only 470 miles (750 kilometers). That’s because we spent two hours (only forty kilometers, or twenty-five miles) on bad Transkei roads this morning.

Ciao!

Thankful that the Day is Finally Over

After a long, grueling death march to the waterfall, Ethan and I played Monopoly (it’s the South African version, so instead of railroads it has international airports in Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Johannesburg, instead of waterworks it has ‘water board,’ instead of just English it has both English and Afrikaans, and instead of dollars it uses rand in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 50000).

Earlier on the trampoline, I had watched Ethan jump while Josi, the five-year-old girl who lives here, talked to me. She informed me that Sophia is seven, when their birthdays were, and that she’s homeschooled. She also told me a joke:

There was a family on a plane that was going to crash. The parents and pilot were worried they were going to die, so they talked about what they wanted to do most. “I wish I could have my baby,” the pregnant mother said. “I wish I could be a dad again,” said the dad. “I wish I could fly more planes,” said the pilot. Then the mom, dad, and pilot got in the parachutes (there were only three) and jumped out of the plane, leaving the four-year-old son up in the air. When the mom and dad got home, they found the boy in his room, watching TV. They asked him how he got there, and he said, “Me no stupid, me no dumb, me hang onto Daddy’s bum. When he go toot, I go zoom! And that’s how I get home so soon.”

Now Ethan and I returned to the trampoline, soon to be joined by Sophia. She told us the horses’ names (Socks, Elter, Teddy, Rocky, and Strider) and that Socks was sore and couldn’t be ridden because he had an operation a few days ago. She asked, “Are our horses boys or girls?” I asked if they were both. “Just guess!” she said. Ethan answered, “They’re all boys.”

“How’d you know?” Sophia asked. Ethan smiled. “I read it on the website.” Sophia groaned. “Why’d my mom have to put it there? It’s broken! Are you mad?” This last part was to Ethan, because he was starting to go down the slide on the play structure. (Sophia had told him before that it was broken.) After some more Monopoly, we went back out, this time with the intent to play table tennis. The table wasn’t down there, so we told Sylvia at the front desk. She said she would have Dayne and Brandon take it in.

So Sophia, Ethan, and I played Clue and Scrabble. No one won Clue because, well, we all accused incorrectly. I was winning Scrabble when we stopped with 121 points. Sophia had 78 and Ethan had 77 (although Sophia only got that many because I helped her). Then we went back out to the trampoline and jumped some more. Josi came and joined us. We stayed like that until it started getting dark.

Ciao!

A Safe Haven

Ethan is SO excited: we’re finally at the famed Haven. Apparently it was his favorite place when he was in South Africa back in 2009 with Dad. There is a pool, golf course, trampoline, table tennis set, and beach here, along with many types of animals including white rhinos (which are still hunted in this national park) and zebra. The male zebra, Zebbie, who was hanging out with the horses three-and-a-half years ago,was shot on account of his “amorous escapades” with the horses and donkeys here. So Ethan was a little disappointed that they hadn’t trained Zebbie to be ridden.  We had a supper of lettuce and apple soup, bread, pumpkin, potato, spinach, rice, and a bread-and-butter bread pudding with custard. Yes, I did say “lettuce and apple soup.” To be totally honest with you, I would not advise it to you unless you  love creamed spinach from Safeway. But the dessert was delicious, and we left totally stuffed.

Ciao!

Some R&R

After our long and grueling hike yesterday, we need some rest and relaxation. We got to sleep in and have a late (9 a.m.) breakfast. We left to give the laundry to the laundry company.

Then we went to Falcon Ridge, home to raptors of the world. We saw a peregrine falcon (Squawk), a spotted eagle owl (Hooter), an African fish eagle, two kites, two Harris hawks, and a Wahlberg’s eagle named Hugo. Ethan held Squawk and Hooter. During the sister Harris hawks’ demonstration, all four dogs stayed well away. Allison, one of the bird handlers, said that even the youngest dog, Kaecee, had learned to stay away from these raptors because they had both ridden on his back at one point.

At the next place, we got to touch and hold a tailless whip scorpion, an alligator, a leopard gecko, an African pygmy hedgehog, several types of snakes, and a tarantula. The owner (we’ll call him Rick) had a black mamba, but obviously we didn’t get to cuddle with her. He also had puff adders, and he decided that Dad hadn’t seen a puff adder yesterday; he’d seen a berg adder.

Rick even had a diamond-back rattlesnake and a California king snake! He said that rattlesnakes and puff adders are popular pets in South Africa. He also said that there are some snakes who give live birth. This includes the puff adder.

So today we got to see some Raptors & Reptiles.

Ciao!

Dinner & Dialogue

“Ah, he’s your tour guide,” Lee said. Ethan was explaining where we were going on our trip to the German couple at the table next to us. We were dining on pasta, chicken, and fish (not each for everyone!) at Mistyque restaurant. The German couple—I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith—went on holiday for six weeks every year. Their favorite places in South Africa are Kruger and the area around it.

As Mr. Smith and Dad were talking, Ethan and I were predicting that our “life story” (going around the world for a year) would come out. We didn’t know that it would, in fact, be Ethan who would reveal this deep, dark secret of ours. Actually, Mrs. Smith asked, “So, are you on a world tour?” To which Ethan enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” He listed off all the countries, much to my chagrin (I love to be the one to list the fourteen countries), ending in, “So maybe we’ll get to Greece, but with all the unrest right now, it’s hard to tell.”

The Smiths have traveled extensively, visiting places including Cuba, South Africa (of course), Turkey, Chile, and Spain. We swapped travel stories throughout dinner, but finally had to leave, using the excuse of “getting the kiddies to bed.”

When we were checking out, Lee talked to us more about what we were doing, why, etc. He said that Ethan was big for eleven (ha) and that, if we had had any Steelers gear, he would have given us dinner just for that. Turns out he’s a big Penn State and Florida fan after working in Pennsylvania. He told us that Oregon was playing Stanford tonight. If it’s the Ducks, I’m cheering for Oregon. If it’s the Beavers… maybe not.

Ciao!

My Brother, the Toilet

AUGRABIE FALLS, South Africa- A bird pooped on Ethan today.

He was alerted as to the presence of the poo by his mother. “Stupid bird,” he muttered. The rest of us were trying not to laugh too hard. His father smiled and said, “Eryn, now you have a post title: My Brother, the Toilet.” I smiled appreciatively, trying to step on Ethan’s shadow. The day was warm- a pleasant 31 Celsius according to the car- and we had driven 120 kilometers from Upington to the town of Augrabies, then on to the falls (which is a national park).

Augrabies is on the Oranjerivier (Orange River in the vernacular), several kilometers before the river becomes the border between South Africa and Namibia, and finally hitting the Atlantic Ocean. The Orange River starts in Lesotho and passes through Upington. From above, the river is located by following the green trail of vineyards.

My father, remembering the falls from a previous trip, had raved about the orange, yellow, blue, and green lizards doing push-ups. This was not to be seen; they were too busy mating with the brown females of their kind. Of other animals, we saw too many bugs, my father saw a fish, and he and I saw Bart Simpson’s face on the rocks across the river.

After having Heaven ice cream bars, we get back in the car and drive through moving water to get to Oranjekom, Ararat, and Moon Rock. Oranjekom and Ararat are both look-out points, but Moon Rock is a gray, round, smooth rock. The Klipspringer Trail follows the crest of this outcrop, but we didn’t hike all 39.5 kilometers for several reasons, including that parts of the trail were closed because the three-day hike is only open from April to October 15. (Ethan and I were not too disappointed.)

After an hour and a half (or thereabouts), we returned to the guest house and Ethan prepared to waterski. After a supper at Bi-Lo and seeing One Direction on the cover of Seventeen, we returned home to find Bishop, the huge dog, roaming free. Mother was petrified.

Ciao!

Foxy Friday

J. was wrong on this day, October 26, Anno Domino 2012. It happened that he and his wife, son, and daughter were taking a morning drive in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the South African side when they came across a dog-like creature walking, laying down, and then watching while her three pups played around he
J. claimed it was a black-backed jackal, and his family originally agreed. After looking through the binoculars and checking the guide books, it was established that the dog was, in fact, not a black-backed jackal but a Cape fox. This idea was firmly dismissed by J., and his wife accepted this.
Until she didn’t. His wife, S., looked through the binoculars and checked and double-checked the guide books. J.’s children, E. and G., knew that it was a Cape fox. S. knew it was a Cape fox. J. didn’t believe for a long while after S. had finished exclaiming, “[The pups] are
so cute!!”

When we arrived at Waterfront Guest Farm here in Upington, South Africa, we found the once-annual “market” going on. There was food, things to buy, and ice cream. We had chicken and salad, and Ethan and Dad had ice cream. We can still hear the tittering of the girls my age as they talk outside. They were sort of wrestling on the grass, and one ran into the back of my chair. Dad said, “Ethan, they’re flinging themselves at you. Not that they have very good aim, but, still.”

Ethan was blushing.

Ciao!

Perth Pastimes

 

Ethan and I had to bid good-bye to Sandy, Peter, and Mr. Fluff today, but only after taking Peter on a walk (yes, with a leash) and getting the chickens’ eggs. We drove for three hours and saw, on the way, emus, roadkill kangaroos, and a bob-tailed
lizard.
Once in our house in Perth, we settled in and then went to Coles for groceries. Upon our return, Ethan and I went to the nearby playground. We returned in time for supper, which ended with chocolate ice cream.
Now we have to empty our luggage in search for two cords, one of which I’ve found in my luggage. The other is still lost.
Ciao!

Sand & Salt

 

After climbing on the dunes, Ethan and I dug a hole. It was frustrating with all the sand-falls, but after while we could see the red-and-white layers of sand.
On the way back, we looked again at the lizard (dubbed Lizzy) and for the first time at the six emus. Dad had found them and was taking pictures. (Lizzy had already been photographed.)
We drove to 3 Mile Camp, where Ethan and I first tested the chilly waters and then built Lump. I dunked and then got Ethan mostly wet. Once we were sufficiently cooled, we dried off and Ethan started digging/building. First it was an O. Then he suggested that we fill it in and make it three or four feet tall. So we did… Just not that tall. Why?
The tide was coming in. Two feet up and two feet wide when a wave hit it and the ocean-facing half slid off. My piece of coral, the Lump’s topping, fell, too. I quickly built the top up so the coral could have a place. Then I helped Ethan.
I quit because we were trying to hold back the ocean. It still stood by the time we left, although I doubt it still does. Time for supper.
Ciao!

Building by the Bay

 

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
Have you ever seen a goose
Kissing a moose
Down by the bay?
No watermelons actually grow at Gnaraloo Bay, but I’m sure that Ethan and I could have sculpted one from sand. We tried to make a castle with walls and a double moat, but the tide started coming in. So I tried to make a hole, but only its wall stayed standing with all the waves coming in.
So Ethan and I added onto it, making a crescent, named It, which eventually got mostly destroyed by the killer half-inch waves. My corner still stood, though! So we built an O off of that, and it wasn’t destroyed by the time we left with our loot, which consisted of cool shells and formerly, cool coral, too, but we’re not allowed to take that. Oh, well…..
Ciao!

Point of View

 

Rise and shine Ethan! No sleeping in today! We have to go see the sunrise at Ayers Rock! C’mon, up up up!… Ethan, NOW!
Oh, you’re cold? Go stand by Mom. Yes, it’s freezing. The car said it was fifteen degrees Celsius. No, I don’t know what that is is Fahrenheit. Ask Mom for her phone.
Are you done with your breakfast yet? We have to go walk to the waterhole.
That was some waterhole. I’ve seen Periodic Tables with more H2O than that. You want to climb the rock? And die? Be my guest.
Look, you could actually climb the rock here; there’s the chain. No, it’s closed due to high wind. When will ten-o’clock ever come? Here’s the ranger, five minutes late. Let’s go.
What did you think of that? I thought he said “I don’t know what I’m talking about” too many times. He was also trying to convince you not to climb the rock. Like you would’ve even if it was open!
Sorry, I’m not going swimming in that freezing cold pool. I’ll stay here.
Mom, let’s open the Tim-Tams!!! … I want the last one too! Fine, we’ll split it. NO, I do not have the bigger half. I intentionally gave you the bigger one.
Ugh, this walk goes on forever. Ugh, that pun was so blah: “This is gorgeous!” We’re in a gorge. In the Olgas, 50K away from the Rock. That’s where we are. What is Sparta?!
Ohmygoodness, these potato crisps are so good. DO NOT sit on me. I’m serious Ethan. Pose for the camera. UGH! That picture is so embarrassing!!! Yes, Mom, we’ll be quiet. Oh, did you see that bus that was missing an S and said, This bus is licensed to  eat 46 passengers?
Ciao!

Flaming Foreigners

We barely, just barely, made it to Ayers Rock today. We wouldn’t’ve if it hadn’t been for a Californian couple on their way to Alice from the Rock.

Oh, you want details? Okaaay…

We left Kathy’s Place at around nine-thirty am after breakfast and several games of tetherball. Mom and Ethan were dropped off at Woolworth’s and my postcard was dropped off at the post office.

We left the actual vicinity of Alice Springs about an hour later after our car had become sparkly clean. We dug into our garlic-and-chives-flavored spreadable cheese (with crackers) at about noon-o-thirty and enjoyed it to the finish. Another hour or so passed, and The Cloud loomed ahead.

The white swirls at the edge of The Cloud merged with the blue of the sky. To the south was a red-grey wall. Straight ahead, to the west, was a sliver of blue. Looking north we could see a dark-grey column rising, defying gravity.

Three cars passed us, all heading toward town. A fourth finally stopped. In it was a couple from California coming from Ayers Rock. He advised us to put our aircon on recirculating and to keep our high beams on, but he convinced us to do it.

We could see the flames leaping on both sides of the road ahead. Mom took a deep breath. I dug my fingers into Ethan’s arm. Dad pressed down on the gas and… we were past. But the white smoke, it was awful. Swirling ash filled the air and we couldn’t see three feet. We finally pulled through the wall, only to have the worst still ahead.

I think Ethan has bruises on his arm now.

Looking back we could see The Cloud growing in size. A mile or so away from our hotel was a police car that blocked the road. The only way from Ayers Rock is by air (yes, there is an airport). I’m guessing Ayers Rock Resort has a lot more visitors than they planned on tonight.

Ciao!

On the Grid

Finally back to civilization! After two whole days of being off the grid at Ambalindum, we’re finally able to catch up at Kathy’s B&B in Alice Springs. We also got on the grid on the way here when we drove over them. We saw some kangaroos last evening and this morning before we left the station. On the way here we stopped at Trephina Gorge and took a two kilometer hike around the rim and on the bed of the creek.

Once we got here, Ethan saw the pool and instantly started begging me to swim with him. Well, at 68º Fahrenheit, I’m not touching that water. Ethan eventually did, though, and Dad watched him. I hope he had fun.

Ciao!

When in Jaisalmer: Another Fort?

Yes, we are in another ‘J’ city. And yes, we are in another fort. However, this time, we are actually living in the fort in a hotel called the Surja Hotel. We have three rooms in the wall; one for me, one for the parental units, and one for Eryn. We are in the Jaisalmer Fort and are a long ways away from the gate, but luckily, we have our own balconies. The balconies are hardly worth mentioning, as they are pretty much window boxes without the flowers or dirt. They stick out of the wall and I like to just sit in one and look out at the city.

The parent’s room has air conditioning, a small balcony, two different beds, and a large bathroom. Eryn’s room is also air conditioned, but it has no balcony, being on the inside of the wall. It has a largeish bathroom and one bed. My room is the only one without air conditioning. It is on the wall and has a balcony, one bed, and a tiny bathroom.

The Surja Hotel has the rooftop as well and has made it into a restruant. There are three tables and each of them has two chairs and a small balcony going out over the side. For supper today, my father and I sat on the balcony overlooking the city and my sister and mother sat on the chairs.

I Got Offered Opium

If you lived out in the countryside, what are the few things that you would need?

Today we went out to the countryside and saw how Indians lived with very little.

Cooking: In the countryside there isn’t time to go into town and buy food to cook, so they grow their own grain in the fields surrounding their houses. Each family has their own fields and harvests everything so that they have millet to make chapatis. We watched a woman make some of those by the following steps: mix water with the flour-like millet, knead the gray dough until it becomes soft, roll it into a ball and then flatten, put on the fire and let it cook. My mother experimented with that and found that it is harder than it looks.

Opium: For those of you who don’t know, opium is an illegal drug, but today we saw some of it in the house of a village tribesman. He said (via translation) that at festivals, they mashed up opium with water and everyone drank. He offered me some, but I declined.

When in Jodhur: Part Two: A Picture Perfect Post

‘Can I take a picture with you?’ A common question that people have asked about 1001 times since we left, and it is very different than at home, where we see tourists and move on.

In one of my earlier posts, I commented on the fact that some people always wanted to take pictures with us because they wanted to practice their English. Here, however, I think that they do it to show off to their friends. On the bright side, it makes me seem like a movie star, so it has mixed feelings.

Even today, at the fort, there was a large group that all wanted to take their picture with us, and even by ourselves.

Another Day, A Brother Day

This morning we “did” the pink city’s main attractions: the observatory, the palace, and the wind wall. The observatory wasn’t like I thought; I was expecting a telescope. Instead, it had things like holes in the ground (to tell time/date) and UFO-shaped trees. (Seriously- they were pruned in the shape of UFOs.) We didn’t go in the palace because it cost US$20 for all four of us, but we did see our first snake charmers outside. Mom freaked out and kept her distance. It was my job to keep her calm.

The wind wall is a wall (surprise!) that high-ranking women could go to and watch events on the street below without being watched themselves. There were windows with stained-glass and fancy stone work and shutters (not all at once) and little pagodas that we used as shelter from the sun.

We were going to immediately go to the Rajisthali Emporium but Dad said we had to be in Jaipur. We were in Jaipur. I bought Ethan a rhaki, which is what you’re supposed to give your brother on Brother’s Day (today). In return, they’re supposed to give you a present (yay!). I think that’s kind of a win-win for the sibling, not the brother, because you spend a little money on a bracelet and then get presents. I’m not complaining, though. I’m just stating my opinions.

Ethan got me cookies from Kanha (we had supper at the restaurant above the fast-food floor, which is above the bakery) after another delicious supper at Four Seasons. Because Mom didn’t want to cross the road which has six lanes’ space of heavy traffic (no one stays in the lines), we rode a tuk-tuk there and back. Both were interesting for different reasons: the first tuk-tuk we tried to hitch a ride on wanted to high a price, so we moved on to the one waiting for our business behind it. We got in and drove right up to the Four Seasons, except we were across the road. Dad started getting out and our driver swerved to cross the road. He (Dad, not the driver) almost fell out. While getting out, we saw the first tuk-tuk stop across the road. It had followed us to the restaurant.

The ride home was much, much shorter because we walked some of the way to meet Mom and Ethan after Ethan had bought the cookies. The driver said his name was “Chikki Chocolate.” I want a name like that! Ciao!

Cobra Charmers Catching Crowds

Today was another interesting day and here are some of the things that I personally found interesting:

Rhaki: A rhaki is kind of like a braclet and oday was National Brothers’ Day with some Hindi traditions that go along with that. The sister is supposed to by a rhaki for her brother and tie it onto his hand. Then, the brother is supposed to give the sister a present, and is supposed to protect the sister for the rest of his/her life. Eryn got me a rhaki and I got her a gift today. She got me a rhaki with red and silver beads, gold finish, and a red thread. It is very shiny. I got her a box full of biscuits (cookies) after supper tonight.

Observatory: The king had built four observetories before the on in the Pink City, and all of those had flaws. This one, however, has almost no flaws and is the largest stone observatory on planet earth. There are two large sundials and the largest is the largest on earth.

Cobras: On the walk from the observatory, we passed some snake charmers on the street. There were two of them and each of them had a basket in front of them with a live cobra in it. The touched and patted the cobra and it acted accordingly. They also let people from the crowd come and touch the cobras. I did that, and when I went up, I got a turban and got to hold a cobra. It was actually kind of soft, in a snakelike sort of way.

When in Jaipur: an Introduction to the Devi Niketan Hotel

Right now I am sitting in a room on the second floor of an old building with wall paintings and marble floors. It is called the Devi Niketan Hotel and it is run by Madhvendra Singh, an admiral that was in the Indian Navy a while ago. All along the walls by the stairs, there are certificates and plaques that are commemorated to him, and they are from a lot of different places like Vietnam, Australia, and the United States.

As you probably don’t know, we got off of the nice train last night and found an man waiting for us to take us to our hotel. We got into a car with him and got driven to the Devi Niketan Hotel, which, luckily, is right by the train station. Once there we had a refreshing glass of pepsi and went right up to our rooms, which are right next to each other and each open up onto a patio. Most of us slept well, and by later that day, those select few (me included) were well rested. The breakfast served there is somewhat like what you would expect from an American Hotel-eggs, cornflakes, and toast-so it was a little bit bland, but we all got through it and decided to see the admiral about things to do in Jaipur.

After he advised us a bit, we went back up to our rooms for about two hours before heading down to the heavily clorinated pool. It hurt my eyes. Then we went on a walk down the road to an ice cream shoppe and a couple of malls. That was boring, except for the ice cream, that is.

When we finally went for supper, we were all pretty tired and went to the bank before heading down the road some more to a restaurant called Four Seasons, which had very good food. On the way back, we took a tuk-tuk called the Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

The Monsoon found us Today

Yep, that’s right, it found us, and most of us were NOT happy campers today when we visited three different monuments in the hills around Agra. It wasn’t helpful either that we all wore our sandals. Anyway, back to the topic: The rain found us yesterday afternoon, but it only started to bother us this morning when we could hear it because our air conditioning stopped making noise due to a nationwide power outage that cut off all power. When we left the N Home Stay, it was still raining and there was so much water that, in some places, the streets were under about one foot of water.  Some people that were on bicycles had a hard time going through that, but some kids enjoyed the water on the edge of the road where it was deeper and they could take a small bath.

Last time on the BTS……..

In case you hadn’t read from everybody else’s posts, the BTS is an elevated skytrain that goes across Bangkok. There are three cars on a train, and each train car has four sliding doors on each side.

The ads on the sides of the train are very interesting. My favorite is the train with Swenson’s ads all over the side, but that’s just me. There is also one with a Canon ad on the side.

And that is all that I have to say about the BTS.

This is my last post from Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter. So Bye.

Heated Toilet Seats? By Toshiba?

Yeah, well, even if you are wondering about that, they are really out there. YesterdaOy I experienced one of them in the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok while we were waiting to go to the visa place.

Before that, we had gone to a park right down the street and had some magnum bars after I tried out some very weird exercise equipment. One of them was an excercise twister with handles up above. It was so weird that I gave up on the twister thing and just hung from the circles above.

Okay. By now you probably want to know about the toilet seats that I encountered in the mall. It was kind of weird, there was a toilet seat with what looked like a remote to the right side. On the remote, you could choose lots of settings, like how warm the water was, or how warm the seat was. You could also move the nozzle for the bidet back and forth. And that part even had a drying feature.

A Very Vivid, Venomous, and Victorious post of Vientiane

On our vivacious visit to Vientiane, I noticed that what stood out to me was the Americanization and the people of Laos.

Americanization: Laos was established as a French colony, but today, there aren’t many things that are French anymore. There several bakeries (both French AND Scandinavian,) but for the most part, the whole of Vientiane was very western. There were many cafés, and we went to some of them and they had a lot of American dishes that we have at home; pancakes, waffles, and French (haha) toast. Also, instead of the signs being in French of even Lao, they are almost all in English. A tuk-tuk driver sitting at a corner knows English, and everyone else does, and that is why I think that it has a lot of American Culture.

People:  The Lao People are very much like the Thai people; they smile a lot and they are very kind to tourists. There, however, there aren’t students coming up to you and asking to take their picture with you to practice their English, but still, a lot of people say ‘hello’ and stuff like that just to practice. The kids seem to stay to themselves more than the ones in Thailand, yet they still find ways to amuse themselves. An example of that was on the promenade by the big statue; there was a little boy with a beer box, putting it on his head and hopping around in it. He also had a broken umbrella that he used as a toy going upwind with it trailing out behind him. You can see him with his beer box on his head in one of our pictures. However, when he picked up the umbrella, his box flew away in the wind. Too bad for him.

I hope that that was a very vivid and vibrant description of Vientiane.

By the way, do you like my vocabulary?

A Vientiane Visit

 

Today we leave Vientiane, Laos, and fly to Bangkok for the third time. There were many things that stood out about Vientiane, but the main ones for me were traffic, money, and animals:

 

Traffic: Laos’s capital’s drivers seem to take life slowly. There seems to be no “fast lane” here. There are also plenty of one-way streets which can make life stressful as you try to find a way to go south on a street that allows only north-bound vehicles. These vehicles include jumbos, motorbikes, tour vans, and VW bugs. Jumbos are the Laotian version of tuk-tuks… kind of. They are, as their name suggests, bigger with the seats in a U-shape instead of two benches opposite each other. There are mini-jumbos, which are technically the same size as tuk-tuks but, because of the shape of the bench, can hold more people. They are also the loudest and ricketiest “vehicles.” They buzz and whine and putt-putt their way through the streets, and our mini-jumbo this morning stopped running more than once while we were stopped.

 

Full-sized jumbos are a whole different story. They have three seats in the front, too, with the one in the middle being the driver’s and the other two for passengers. The seats have all sorts of different patterns on them, and the outside can be all different colors. My favorite so far has been a purple jumbo with seats that are purple with a pink stripe down them. We didn’t get to ride in it, but maybe we will on the way to the airport. That would be awesome! We probably won’t, though, because the most common jumbo color is white with red, yellow, blue, and green accents.

 

There aren’t very many songtows, but the ones we’ve seen have been, for the most part, stuffed. Just today we saw two songtows go by Swensen’s that were full of novices in their bright orange robes (that’s why we noticed them). Vehicles the same size as or larger than a Ford Escape seem humongous unless they’re a cement truck. The motorbikes are still here and dominating. At every stop in traffic, these little beasts move up to the very front of the line of traffic. The bicyclers could do this, but it seems like the only people on bikes on busy streets are tourists, who, for the most part, aren’t brave enough to get up to the very front.

 

Money: The official exchange rate is ₭8,024 per US$1 as of July 24, 2012. It fluctuates a lot; on July 20 it was 7,100 kip per US dollar. This makes prices like 72,000 kip seem low: that’s only US$9. The coins were deemed so worthless that they no longer mean anything. The bills are in denominations of 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; and 50,000, which is worth about US$6. There may be a 100,000 kip bill, but we haven’t seen one. Even then, though, it would only be US$12.5 (approx.).

 

The face on most of these notes is the face of President Kaysone Phomvihane, who was Lao PDR’s first leader.

 

Animals: The most common type of animal in Laos is probably humans, but dogs and ants are close seconds. Actually, ants most definitely outnumber people. The guide yesterday told Dad that a popular Laotian dish is fish and ants. The ants add acid, which is sour, and the people like that. Personally, I find that disgusting, but maybe I’d like it… if I felt like trying it. There are ants everywhere– on the sidewalk, in the fried rice yesterday, along the trail, inside Swensen’s, in my pants… (Yes, I did have ants in my pants.)

 

We are of the opinion that dogs in Laos (or, at least, Vientiane) are cuter than the dogs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There are four that live right around Vayakorn House: the short, furry one with floppy ears and a nasty bite, the tan short-haired dog of some kind, a black dog, and the cutest black and white dog with a heap of fur and a tail that looked like a fountain of black fur. The last one followed us home from Joma Café this morning because it smelled the chocolate chip cookies and banana cake Mom was carrying. It stopped at a sign post, we turned the corner, and I’m guessing it tried to decide what attitude the other three dogs would have towards it since it was an intruder. The little furry one looks like it belongs in Great Britain for some reason, but it can hold its own just as well as the tan and black dogs.

 

Pigs are here but we only saw a few yesterday in a truck heading towards Vientiane. There were four or five on the roof of the car and more below. They were all alive and smelly.

 

There are many cows here, too. Not in town so much (although we did see some along the Mekong on our first day) as the countryside. We saw dozens yesterday as we drove to and from the waterfall. Our songtow had a musical horn that was used to get the cows out of the way, although we usually just drove around them. Cows are very stupid, and we discovered just how stupid they are when we looked back and saw a calf running along the road with a van right behind it. It could have just turned to the right and been safe, but it chose to turn to the left just as another van was coming. It was hit.

 

It got up, though, and went back to running in its own little world.

 

I hope it lived.

 

Ciao!

 

We’re Now Officially Trekkers!

Meaning we went on one “trek.”

Vin, Lindsay, Kristen, and our guides were our companions today on our trek from Vientiane to the waterfall and back to Vientiane.

We started off at 8:13 instead of eight o’clock because we had issues with the laundry. In the songtow, we took some more turns on all the one-way streets ’til we finally got to the guesthouse at which Lindsay and Kristen, two Canadian friends, were staying. Some more turns found us picking up another lady: “This is Vin,” our guide said. “She is from Vietnam.” She opened her mouth and out came English words with an Australian accent. She later explained, “My parents [who are Vietnamese] moved back to Vietnam when I was young. I stayed with my grandparents in Australia.”

We picked up two guides in a village, and from there we walked down to a river. We got into two long boats and went upstream for about forty minutes. The scenery was not overly exciting, but it was interesting that Ethan had to keep dumping water out of the boat as we motored along. Once he let the can into the water, but the driver got it for Ethan. It was on a string, so it would’t have gone any where, but it was rather annoying when it was splashing us.

The hike lasted about two hours, although Ethan said, “That wasn’t a hike this morning. That was a walk.” To keep ourselves occupied, we sweated. We also crossed several streams and finally came to a stop at some large rocks in a creek. After resting for five minutes, we finished crossing the water and walked for another hour or so before arriving at the end of the road and the sign announcing the waterfall. After the appropriate amount of pictures was taken, we continued on with Ethan, Kristen, and I leading the way. We didn’t actually know where we were going, so we leaders had to wait at the fork for the guide to catch up and take us where we wanted to go.

The lunch was not very good. It was vegetables and pineapple on a skewer with barbecue sauce (which I am not very fond of), fried rice (the ants added flavor), and bread (smeared with barbecue sauce). The only thing I had nothing against was my banana. Even my water bottle deserted me, rolling down the rock and into the dark depths below.

Vin, Lindsay, Ethan, and Dad were the only ones courageous enough to swim. Vin actually did swim, but Lindsay didn’t really need that towel she brought. Ethan and Dad went underneath the waterfall and, I think, swam the longest. After they all dried off, we went back to the road. Ethan and I were in the process of getting in the songtow when we were told we were going to visit another waterfall, which was more impressive. The first waterfall was in the form of stairsteps. This one was just a drop. Lindsay and Kristen also discovered little pieces of flora that looked like hands. Dad was holding one, attached it to his nose, and pretended like he was being attacked by it. Okay, it doesn’t sound like it was funny, but Ethan, Mom, Lindsay, and I were dying. You had to be there.

On our way to supper tonight, I heard One Direction playing. I reacted (I’ll never tell how), and Dad asked if I was being directional. Ethan said, “No, she just heard One Direction.” Don’t worry; he eventually got it. Ciao!

A Laundry List without the Laundry

We had to get up early this morning so we could go on a 2 hour trek through the jungle to get to a waterfall. But before we could do that, my mother had to take some laundry to the laundry place right down the street from our guesthouse. She took about twenty minutes, and by that time, the driver to take us to our trekking place was there in his blue pick-up truck. My mother finally came out of the laundry place, carrying all three bags of laundry back to us, and she then told me to carry them up to my room where we could leave the until we came back that evening.

After taking a fourty minute boat ride and a two hour hike, we finally arrived at the waterfall with the rest of our group. There were two girls from Canada, a girl from Vietnam (and an Australia accent), and the four of us, Ethan, Eryn, Jerry, and Susan.
We, the only vegetarians, had our own lunch on a rock a little bit below the big rock where everyone else was and had to sit out in the rain. When we finished eating, the Vietnamese girl went immediately to change into her swimsuit and had done a couple of laps (back and forth from land to the waterfall) before the darker-haired girl from Canada joined her. My dad got in and I quickly joined him.

When I first felt the water, I thought it would be really cold and that I would be shivering underwater, but when I got up to my shoulders as I swam from rock to rock, I noticed that it didn’t seem that cold. I swam to where my dad was standing on a rock about twenty yards away from the bottom of watefall and we both swam underneath a rock shelf that protruded from the waterfall. After that, we decided to go downstream a little ways, and just floated downstream to the place where you got out, and we did that, before heading up, back to the truck.

Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle, I want to ride my Bicycle

In case you don’t know that song, it is a song (called Bicycle) that Queen played. The also played ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

Anyway, today we went to the Scandinavian Bakery for breakfast, they had lots of pastries, including some that look like glow-sticks. We all ordered some version of the Continental Breakfast. I don’t know how it got that name, considering there are either Danish Buns of Croissants to go with it, and that I have never had anything like that before, so I don’t know where in the world the ‘continental’ part came in, so don’t ask me. While we were eating on the balcony, we were really annoyed by the fact that there was a really loud bird that seemed intent on driving us crazy with its incessant squawking.

After that, we went to the ‘Place of the Squawking Bird’ (a nickname for a bike shop that I just made up) and saw that to rent their bikes, you paid 20,000 Kip and had to return it a 6:00 pm. My mother said to wait, so we went down the street to a tour place, where we learned about a tour service into the national park nearby.

We decided on going back home, getting our swimsuits, and heading to yet another bike shop (this one only 10,000 kip) to get bikes to go to the water park on the other side of town. We didn’t find it. Well, we found the bike rental place, where we rented four bikes, but we didn’t find the water park. Too bad.

The Laos “Laundry List”*

At Ethan’s persistence, we went for a bicycle ride today after a delicious breakfast at the Scandinavian Bakery. We were trying to find the water park, but we either passed it or it was torn down. Because of this, Dad decided that we should ride to the Promenade. The wind was blowing in our faces, making it difficult to move as we biked along the Mekong.

At noon we returned our bikes and retreated to the shade and AC of our rooms. We read for a bit and then Mom and Ethan went out to buy Magnums and cookies. After the ice cream was enjoyed, we went outside again and looked at a couple of Lao shops. When an appetite had been sufficiently developed, we went down the street and had supper at the Taj Mahal. The garlic naan was the best part of the whole meal; it was amazing. Mom and Dad’s lassis were also very good.

We were going to take pictures of the sunset on the Promenade (which is on the Mekong River), but it got cloudy right as we arrived. We persisted, though, and found a Sunday night market and a group workout. At the market, I got a T-shirt and Ethan got a necklace with a stone made from aluminum from a bomb or an airplane. The plane and bomb fell near/in a village and the people took the aluminum and made things like spoons, bracelets, and necklace charms out of it. (At least, that’s the story they give.) Another interesting part was hearing Every Day I’m Shufflin’ play.

*Dad says that sometimes we just write down what we did and that is called a laundry list.

Ciao!

Another Lovely (and hot) day in Laos

Today was a very hot day and we spent much of it looking at four of the most visited tourist sites (or sights) by a tuk-tuk, which here, is more commonly known by the name Jumbo.

A Jumbo is pretty big, and it is a lot more comfortable than a tuk-tuk: tuk-tuks, have one row facing forward, while Jumbos have bench seats in what looks like the back of a small pick-up truck.

Sights at Sites: We went to four sites: the Ho Phra Keo Museum, the Sisaket Museum, the Phra That Laung Museum, and the Patuxai Arch. The ones that I will focus on are the Ho Phra Keo Museum and the Pha That Laung Museum.

The Ho Phra Keo Museum was a temple that held the Emerald Buddha after taking it from Chiang Mai, but then Siamese (Thai) people came and took it back to Siam (Thailand) and now the Buddha resides in Wat Phra Keo, Bangkok. The temple, however, due to the Siamese forces razing Vientiane thrice, has had to be rebuilt three times, the last being in the 1920’s.

The Pha That Laung Museum is the Great Stupa, the symbol of the Lao people and the most important monument in Laos. It has been moved and reconstructed (faultily) and then reconstructed correctly in the 1930’s.

Today Was a(n) [insert adjective] Day

You can comment on what sort of day you think it was after you read this. This is in chronological order according to the times on my stupid (you’ll see why) watch:

2:33: I wake up, look at my watch, think Thank goodness there’s still an hour, and go back to sleep.

3:25: Alarm doesn’t go off.

4:08: We wake up to Mom knocking on our door. I tell Ethan to get his butt in the shower, and I answer the door. We think she had been standing and knocking for quite a while.

4:10: Ethan finishes his shower- if you can call a nozzle sticking out of a wall and spraying the toilet a shower.

4:33: We’re all dressed, showered, packed, and out the door in the airport shuttle.

4:44: Our arrival at the airport is too early; we have to wait until five o’clock rolls around.

4:59: We’re checking in and the lady looks at our tickets from Bangkok to New Delhi.

5:00: She asks if we have our Indian visas.

5:01: We don’t.

5:06: She pulls up a list of countries whose citizens don’t need visas beforehand: Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, Mexico, Vietnam… the US is not on there.

5:07: We head to the benches to regroup and an exclamation is heard: “I want to go home.”

5:38: A family sits down across from us, happily eating their Hilton breakfast and displaying their Swiss passports.

5:52: They finally leave.

6:37: We go to the United Airlines counter and reschedule our flight to India for Friday.

6:39: The benches are a wonderful find.

7:32: Our bags (except for Dad’s backpack) are left with the people at LEFT BAGGAGE.

7:33: We find another bench.

7:46: Ethan and I go up to the (frigid) observation deck. That airport has the AC on waay too high.

7:49: We head to the FamilyMart and look at all the sickly-sweet looking foods.

7:51: We return to our parents.

9:31: The female half of us changes the new flight to Saturday, July 28.

9:35: Mom goes looking for unguarded electrical outlets for her phone.

9:41: She returns with no luck.

9:47: We look for breakfast.

9:58: Chocolate waffles!!!

10:03: We buy our tickets for the airport train, which goes in to town.

10:07: Oreos are bought just to get some smaller bills/coins.

10:09: We begin to wait for the train.

10:23: It finally comes.

10:52: We quickly exit the station and walk to the tube.

11:09: We’re spit out of the train into the rain.

11:10: We start walking the wrong way.

11:22: We stop and ask where we are.

12:01: Finally! The stairs up to the GLAS HAUS loom in front of us.

12:07: We enter the Indian Visa Application Centre.

12:09: We’re back in the hallway to fill out the remaining three forms- Mom’s, Ethan’s, and mine- on the iPad.

13:12: We’re now officially in the Centre.

14:29: After being forced to pretend that my signature at age nine is still the same three years later, we leave with the promise to return with our passports next week.

14:57: The underground’s doors close too soon and I am left behind.

14:59: A Thai lady tells me that she’ll make sure I get to the right place (the next stop). That was nice, but I would have been perfectly fine on my own.

15:01: The next train comes.

15:03: I get off and Ethan tells me that Mom’s looking for me. Thankfully she didn’t go back (although we could’ve easily called her. We had four bars… underground!).

15:07: We’re back on our way to the airport.

16:32: Supper is served at Twin Time, a restaurant in the airport that serves tiny portions. My chicken satay and Thai iced tea were AMAZING.

17:49: Ethan invites me to come to the bookstore with him so he can show me the Justin Bieber book. Of course, he didn’t tell me this beforehand.

18:13: 31 Flavors! (Ethan counted- there were 30 flavors in 32 tubs. FYI, 31 Flavors is Baskin Robbins)

18:17: I try a spoonful of green tea ice cream. Be warned! (Unless you like greasy ice cream that tastes like moldy [and looks] like moldy vanilla.) Dad, Ethan, and I each get one scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale and one scoop of World Class Chocolate. Mom had one scoop of the former and one scoop of mint chip.

18:31: Dad buys water at the 7-Eleven.

18:37: We retrieve our luggage.

19:29: We arrive at Mariya Boutique Residence, and I grab a banana.

20:46: Mom chokes on her malaria pill as I read her this post.

21:13: I bid you… Ciao!

Visas are NOT credit cards

That is what everyone should know if they are traveling to another county. Today we woke up waaaaay too early ( but still layer than we were supposed to) to go to the airport. Here is what happened with visas today: say (just for an example of what happened today) India. So, we had read on a website that India doesn’t need a visa for American citizens, but at the check-in desk, we heard differently……… Apparently you have to have a tourist (or other type of) visa to get into India if you are an American. Since we didn’t have one, we missed our flight to New Delhi, where we had multiple reservations, one of which was a driver that picked us up at the airport to take us to our place. Since we weren’t there, he had to stand there all morning, holding a sign that said “Jerry Reeder” on it. Too bad.

Since we had nothing left to do at the airport, we went out to try and find the Indian embassy in Bangkok. We found it eventually, but not after taking several wrong turns through the torrential rain. When we got there, we hadn’t even filled out most of our forms and we needed them to finish our work on the 15th floor of the Glass Haus. But since my mom’s phone had died, and it could give us the Internet we needed to fillnout the forms on the iPad via bluetooth. So, because of that, Eryn stood by one of the four elevators and used the outlet in the wall to charge my mother’s phone while the rest of us read off details from our passports. After about an hour, we were finally done and we went in to the waiting area and filled out some more forms before finally getting called up and getting our applications approved.

At least we can now go to India.

Rain, Rain, go away, come again some other Day.

Preferably when we aren’t there looking areopen air temples up on the hills surrounding our faithful city of Chiang Mai. The rain is good in Thailand, so it bearable.

If I was the rain, I would probably do the same thing that the rain did today, though, but still, why did it have to be on the one day that we went up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Doi Kom.

With rain up on Doi Kom, there are a lot of dogs just sitting underneath cars, but it was still so hot that there were then two good reasons to sit under a car; shade and shelter from the rain. After that, we got on a plane and went off to Bangkok to spend the night at a hotel before getting up early tomorrow morning to catch our flight into New Delhi.

Fun ‘n Games

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai, here is what we did:

 

Today we went out early to try to find Good Morning Chiang Mai again. We found it, and we ate breakfast there. After that, we walked to the park at the far corner of the inner city of Chiang Mai (remember it)? At the park, my father gave me 20 baht and I got us two mats so we would have something to sit on besides benches. My dad and I shared a mat and I took a nap, because we had had to get up early to get to Good Morning Chiang Mai. After I took a nap, I took my dad’s phone and did a couple of games of sudoku (perfectly) before moving over to Eryn’s mat and playing Train with her. Train is a word game where you have to say a word starting with the letter that your opponent’s word ended in, and the game always has to start with the word “train”. We did a couple (two) of rounds, the first one was one where it had to relate to Thailand, but that got to be too hard so we just skipped that rule, and Eryn won, I got second, and my mother got third. We played a second game that had to be animals, that was pretty hard as well, but we kept to the rules that time and I lost, my mother came in second, and Eryn won (again). After that, I returned the mats to their owners and off we went, away from the park, never to see it again.

And that is what happened in our last full day in Chiang Mai.

Boredom Buster

I do not know anyone named Buster, but today was filled with boredom. After going to a wat early this morning, we went to breakfast at- yet again- Nature’s Way. I had a latte with chocolate syrup and a banana pancake smothered with chocolate syrup. After that very healthful breakfast, we returned to M.D. House and sat around for the next three hours doing nothing. Okay, we read. But that was it.

Ethan and I were going to go down to the computer room, but our parents had other plans: we needed to go to UPS to mail a package and to the market to buy fruit. On our way to UPS, we stopped at the Thai airlines building and Mom, Ethan, and I got to relax in the air-conditioned room while Dad took care of our flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

Once on our way again, we took a left turn and walked down the outer edge of the square part of Chiang Mai to find UPS. Well, we took a wrong turn. We finally discovered this and had to walk back and beyond, going almost to the corner. After buying a box and paying for the shipping, we lost an extremely large amount of money for two reasons: one, we were shipping finished school books home and, two, I sent away my foreign currency that I don’t need on this trip such as colones, pesos, and pounds.

We went back out into the scorching sun and walked around the corner of the city and all the way to the market, where Mom bought mango and pineapple. Ethan and I both got shakes: he got a pineapple shake and I got a mango-banana shake. Never again. Ever!

Once we got home, we did our schoolwork and went on the computers in the computer room. After a short visit there, we retreated to our parents’ room and looked at places to stay in Greece. Don’t worry! I won’t be a spoiler and tell you where we’re going! My dad can do that for me on the itinerary page. Ethan and Mom also finished their game of War. She won.

Supper was, for the third time, at Aum. We have plenty of memories there: playing the guitar (and fighting over it), Dad eating the spoonful of what looked like avocado but was really wasabi [horseradish] that came with our avocado maki (sushi with vegetables instead of meat. Aum is a strictly vegetarian restaurant), playing with the Barbie and trying to make her hair look less greasy, trying to figure out what the yak-like animal under “N” on the alphabet-board was, and discussing what a hard time the people are having at work without Dad. Would you like me to explain the alphabet-board? Well, we dubbed it the Periodic Table of the Elephants. It shows the Thai alphabet and our alphabet, and for each letter is a picture. For example, under the letter B is a bird with a ball and a boyfriend bird. It is named for the elephant under “E” because Ethan asked if it was the Periodic Table of the Elements. I responded, “No. It’s the Periodic Table of the Elephants.” Some of the other ones were not so obvious, but we decided that, yes, it is a xow underneath “X” with 1.5 bottoms.

We got Magnums at the 7-Eleven after discovering that the lady who did our laundry couldn’t find one of my socks. We didn’t get Magnums because of that, mind you, but because we hadn’t had ice cream all day (!) and desperately needed to. I find it amusing how at home a pack of gum costs about $1 and here it costs about $33.33 cents. Ethan wanted to spend his pocket change on things beside just ice cream but we had a record of 1:40 to beat on our way back. Guess what? We didn’t. But we did finish the easiest e-crossword puzzle on the website that I found with 30%. We got all the words/letters right (it tells you), but I kept guessing on the letters which lost us the 70%. With my parents’ help, though, I finally finished it. I absolutely hate to say this, but… I could have never done it without you. Ciao!

Smoothies!

Today, in the afternoon, we went to the fruit market. There was more than fruit, though, there were fish, clothing and vegetebles. Eryn and I crossed the street and found that there were fruit smoothies as well. For only 20 Thai Baht, I could get a pineapple smoothie which I did. For 40 Thai Baht, Eryn got a banana and mango smoothie. They were really good, and they were so good that Eryn and I were still drinking them half an hour later.

The fish there varied a lot, there were fish dead, fish alive, and fish fried. We didn’t get any, but we saw a lot. And they smelled a lot too.

Mista Boon

Today we got up early (again) to go on a ride with Mr. Boon to the Boatong Waterfall. Once there, we changed into our swimsuits and took off down the steps to one of the lower levels in the warm-ish water. But, since you don’t know what in the world I am talking about, I will describe the waterfall:

The waterfall is made up of four levels, level 1, level 2, level 3, and one that I made up…….Kind of. The top level (1) is the one that you first see when you drive up to park, it is made of limestone and it is surprisingly not slippery. The next level down (2) is about 80 meters down the hill and you take steps to go down to it. There, there are some ankle-deep pools that you can wade in and you can climb the waterfall up to the first level or go down to the third. On the third level down, there is a tall and steep face of the waterfall, but it is still easy to go down, and there are some more ankle-deep pools below it. The level that I made up was the one at the very bottom and it had some deep-ish pools that you could jump into if you decided you wanted to go down some more rocks (or steps, the steps go all the way down).

What we did was skip level 1 because there were a lot of people there, but we stopped at level 2. While at level 2, we climbed up a little and then went down the other side, then waded in the litlle pools before Eryn and I went down the waterfall to level 3 (our parents took the stairs). At level three, I climbed the face a couple of times, and in between, some college age girls wanted their picture with me for some reason. Then we went down to the level that I made up and saw a family jumping in of the edge of a ledge and into a deeper part. I decided to do that and it was a bit colder than in the shallower area. Then Eryn joined me and we both jumped in half a dozen+ times into the water. We (being my father, Eryn, and I) decided that it would be fun to go up, actually, Eryn and I decided, but my dad just followed us. We climbed up steep limestone walls and through shallow pools before reaching the top, where Eryn scraped her toes and started to bleed.

When we arrived at the top, we found my mother sitting there with all of our stuff and we put on our flip-flops and walked up some more stairs to the spring of the stream that created the waterfall. The spring was crystal clear and there were little fish in it. There were also buckets attached to bamboo poles that you could dip into the water and pour on each others heads. We tried out the dippers, and as it turns out, a quart sized amount of water can seem really heavy at the end of a piece of grass.

When we got back to the parking lot area, we saw that a lot more people had come, so we decided to grab ice cream and leave.

Bonjour

Jump, Splash, Scream

That is what happened when Eryn and I jumped into the little pool from the jacuzzi above when it was surrounded by college-aged girls who screamed and had to redo their makeup. It was very entertaining…….

We swam for only 20 minutes, but in that time, we scared away some girls, had races, and timed the time we could stay underwater. I noticed that one of the girls was reading Catching Fire and had an iPhone 4 or 4s. I think she put away her book as soon as we started jumping, but weirdly, she took out her iPhone and started doing something on it. Maybe texting her boyfriend, if she has one.

For the races, we put our legs into the lotus position and then proceeded to see who could go from one end of the pool to the other and back (while staying in the lotus position) the fastest. I won the race, but when we continued on to a breath holding contest, I only got 23 seconds while she got 29. Too bad.

The last time that we had swam in that pool, we had noticed that there had been a lot of water bugs and tadpoles due to unchlorinated water. This time, however, when we swam we saw almost no tadpoles, and the one that we saw was very much dead. It was very good to know that we wouldn’t have to be worried at swallowing a live tadpole, but then again, we had to be worried about swallowing a dead tadpole…….Yuk.

Good Morning Chiang Mai

Today we woke up early at about 7:00 am to get out the door at 7:30 am to get to a restraunt called Good Morning Chiang Mai, which is a little bit south of the M.D. House. We walked for a while, then when we, according to TripAdvisor, were supposed to be there, we weren’t….

So we walked a little ways down the street, still couldn’t find it, and then just decided to go to a cafe with internet that was right next to us. When we got done with the food (which wasn’t very good) we watched the original Hawaii Five-O on the screen in the cafe before heading back to the M.D. House, but not before looking for the Good Morning Chiang Mai which we never found. And that was how we got to be annoyed at how TripAdvisor is always wrong on its maps.

Conversational Monk

Yes, we went to another temple today. Actully, we just went up to Doi Suthep to see the veiw and just hang around in the outer courtyard. After an interesting ride made up of 2 different songtows, we finally got up to the top on empty stomachs, which is probably the right thing, considering that we skipped breakfast in the morning, we walked up the great multitude of stairs to get to the outer courtyard that had a bunch of bells and large gongs (about 6 feet in diameter for one of the larger ones).

After walking around a little ways, we were looking at the veiw that wasn’t that much of a veiw, and a monk approached us, and with his somewhat limited English, began to tell us that he had come from an island in the south and showed us a map (in English!) of the island on which he lived. He also asked how old Eryn and I were and we replied in turn. It was a very interesting conversation because some of us thought that he was trying to get us to buy a tour boat service around the island that he lived on, but who knows??
Still, though, it was an interesting conversation.

Open Casket Burial at Sea

Yes, I know that we aren’t at sea, but there was a water burial today, and it was my hair……….So sad. Since Eryn and my mother were gone at a cooking class most of the day, my father took it into his hands to cut my hair. Since we didn’t have scissors and  I didn’t want a buzz cut, he used his hair trimmer to cut my hair, and he cut it very short. When he was done, there was so much hair that we couldn’t just wash it down the drain in the shower, we had to give it the finest burial that we could have in a bathroom. Not that many choices there, are there? Sadly, we didn’t have a goldfish to go with it. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror, I saw how short he had cut it and swore to myself that I would wear a hat for the next month.

As it turns out, I didn’t, we went to one of those ever present 7-11s and got me some hair gel. Then we got ice cream. It was very good and we relished every last bite of it.

For dinner we went to Boutique della Pasta and we had a Caprese, two Bruschettas, pine nut and raisin ravioli, ravioli with greens, and ravioli with ricotta with walnut. Last, (but definately not the least) we had a dessert of chocolate Panna Cotta. It was very good.

All Flora and no Fauna

Today we went to the Ratchaphreuk Royal Gardens and walked around for a ways, there was an orchid farm in it and it had a maze-like collection of paths that connected the sides and the back. As far as I could see, there were very few orchids, but there were lots of plants. When I heard from my mother that Eryn was in the back, I went there immediately and tried sneaking up on her but the fountain was motion activated so she knew that I was there before I even knew where she was. Then Eryn and I hung out in the back and interested ourselves with looking at the sign that said “Do not Inhale” and it was in front of a flower. I didn’t inhale. We sat back there until our parents came to the back an finished looking at the orchids.

There was also a couple of small ponds that had so many fish in them. There was a pagoda out on the biggest pond and fish stayed right underneath it so when they came out you could almost reach down and grab one, there were so many. I would have, but they are fast fish, instead, I got myself wet. Eryn also humored herself by taking off her flip flop and waving it right over the fish so the all ran in different directions. In one of the smaller ones, there was a pipe going through it and on that pipe there were a lot of snails the size of my fist. There was also a boot floating upside down and Eryn seriously wondered whether it was connected to a person, I said ‘no’.

What Wat??

Today was not a busy day, and we sat around and had naps for a big chunk of the day. In the morning, we had gone to Nature’s Way (again) and we sat around and had the same things as last time; mango and banana pancakes. An hour after we finished breakfast, we headed down the road for two Wats. One of the Wats was really big and had an old temple with elephant statues on the side of it and the other had a large temple building inside and was pretty big…..In the afternoon, Eryn and I swam in the deeper of the two pools and had a lot of fun, less fun, perhaps, when Eryn accidentally  made a big scratch on my back. For supper we went to back to the place where we had met the Oregonian family and didn’t see them but dined anyway.

To the Zoo!!!

Today we went to the zoo in the early afternoon and stayed for about two hours. It was fun to feed the giraffes pieces of banana straight from your/my hand. We were going to go to the so-called “snow dome” but it turned out to be just an opportunity to get your picture taken in 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit next to a styrofoam snow man……Not exactly the best thing to do, even if it was only eighteen dollars for the four of us. Anyway, we also saw an elephant that had its tusks curled together so that it couldn’t skewer people in the passing buses that sometimes stopped there. The zoo also seemed so proud of the fact that it had some pandas, and it even had a gift shop that had some panda-dung notepads. We saw a couple of different varieties of big cats, including tigers, white tigers, lions, leapords, and panthers, and for the leapord, for twenty baht, I fed it a piece of beef on a stick.

When in Chiang Mai

So, we arrived in Chiang Mai last Sunday and have found our place of residence; the B.D. House in the inner city.

Our accommodations are situated right inside the moat that surrounds the old city. It is a fairly large place with two pools, but it has only a small breakfast menu. We are in the second building, on floor 3, and we are one of the few people on our floor.

Let me fill you in on what happened since I left you in Bangkok:

  • We got to the train station around 4:30 PM on Sunday after we had gone to 3 different malls in the center of town. On the train ride, we had first class seats (did I say seats, I meant bunks) that were in adjoining compartments. On the train ride, we had supper, which was good, and breakfast was pretty sparse, the only part that most of us ate was the toast with butter. It was a bumpy night, but most of us slept all right, but still, we were all tired in the morning.
    When we got to Chiang Mai, we went to our place by a taxi man (who had a long Thai name, so he called himself “Mr. Boon” and said that Daniel was his brother) and went to the park at the corner of the old town after a time where we just sat on a couch for a while. Then we tried to go to an Italian resturaunt, but found out that it was closed, so we went to a place a little ways down the street from our place that served good food, and both Eryn and my mother commented on how great the iced tea was.

Today:

  • Today, when we went down to breakfast, Eryn, my mother, and I all got “french toast” which was little more than glorified toast.Then we went to the Airport Plaza Mall and went around the food court, eating coconut ice cream and fried bananas. When we came “home” Eryn and I swam, and met a 13-year-old girl from Brazil named Louisa. When we got out of the pool, we went upstairs and got our schoolwork done, before going out to supper in a tuk-tuk. It took us about an hour to get there, because our driver didn’t know where in the world (Chiang Mai, that is) our resturaunt. The food there was o.k. But it wasn’t my style. It was a curry soup that you got to put your own condements on, such as cabbages, challots, fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, lime, pepper paste, and banana slices. As it turns out, when we got a tuk-tuk to go back, it only took us about 5 minutes to get back.

Tomorrow, we are going to go on a ride with Mr. Boon and go to tourist places. Then, on Thursday, we are going to the elephant farm. And that is as far as we have planned ahead.

Our 2 days in Chiang Mai have been very nice and interesting ones, and we hope to have many more.

Last full day in Bangkok

Today was our last full day in Bangkok, and I thinkwhat we did a pretty good job of enjoying it while we could. Here are the things that we did today:

We ate a meal (breakfast) consisting of rice, chocolate milk, mangos, and scrambled egg. Then we went down the street to the coffee shop (Chimney) and had mochas, small for the kids, medium for the adults. We also had two pieces of cake and a triple brownie. It was all very good.

On our way back home we stopped at the Buddha Dharma Relics Museum and saw a lot of Buddha relics. It was interesting because we saw a bunch of weird items, like Buddha blood relics (which looked a lot like red sand) and other stuff like that.

After that we went down to the pool (all four of us) and swam for a long while, using my father as a horse to ride upon, (I know that that sounds stupid, but you probably don’t want to get in between someone and the wall of a pool) also we used him as something to splash. It was very liberating……..

Then we went up to our room and sat around for about an hour before heading down to go to our favorite restaurant across the street, Buri Tara. Again, for the third time. By the time we came home, it was about 7:15 and we decided to pack and then swim for a while (we being Eryn and I). Today was our first day of 270 that we have to take malaria pills. Lucky us…..

Paddleboating!!!!!!!!

Today we went to the Lampini Park which is a big park right in the middle of Bangkok. For the first half hour we sat on a bench and took pictures of water monitors and turtles. After that, we went to a dock and rented two paddleboats that each had two duck figureheads made out of plastic. We paddled those around for about half an hour before returning the boats to the dock. Then we went home after going to the grocery store and getting ice cream, which we had for supper along with pizza after we swam in the pool for a little bit.

Oh, I just remembered, as we were leaving the bus station, we saw some people filming a movie that involved people in black suits having a gun pointed at them.

Swenson’s are more popular here than in America!!!

Wat Pho and Wat Arun are both temples on the river running through Bangkok. Wat Arun was my favorite because you could climb up high on steep staircases. However, Wat Pho was interesting because there were some school girls who practised their English by asking us questions about where we are from and if they could take their picture with us. On our way home, we stopped by Swenson’s and had some ice cream before going into Tesco to buy some things for supper, which we had at home.

WE FOUND IT!!!!! (kind of)

Well, we finally found the resturaunt. As it turns out, it is a chain that is around Thailand, it is called MK. It is an interesting place, where, sitting in the middle of each table, there is a stove burner with a pot of spiced water in which you put in your food that you order. There are no forks or knives, only a soup spoon, a ladle, and a set of chopsticks for each person.
Now to start at the beginning of the day,
For breakfast, we went to the coffee shop down the street, then we went back to our apartment for a while before heading to the MBK mall by the national stadium.We stayed there for a while (about 6 hours) before heading home. We had supper at the mall

Where was that restaurant again???

Ice cream and pizza, in Thailand!!! Who would’ve thought?!?!?!
Sounds more like Italy, except there you would change it to be gelato and pizza (or would that be piazza??)
Anyway, today started out like any other day, we got up, took showers and had breakfast. But that is as far as the similarities go, today we stayed at ourbapartment building doing schoolwork until we left for supper. Eryn had looked up everything for our supper arrangements and had it all planned out when we found out that she had remembered the wrong mode of transportation. So, instead of doing that, we decided to go to a Lebanese place somewhere down the street.

Guess what, it wasn’t there, so we changed our plan again and decided to go to a piazza place. The pizza was okay, but what I really liked was the chocolate ice cream…..YUM!!!!!

Palaces & Temples

Some people like Buddha, and some people don’t, right???
Today we got to experience what people who like Buddha do and see when they visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Karo (pronounced Pre Q). We saw that, in a legend, there is a demon king with 10 heads and, when he gets angry, 20 arms. Also there are snake guardians that have five heads and necks. Their faces look like human faces when they are happy and crocodile faces when they are mad.

Buddhists have lots of ways of getting good luck, including dripping holy water off of flowers and onto their heads, taking a small piece of gold leaf and sticking it onto a statue of Buddha, putting some money on top of the heads of elephant statues, and many more. Also, elephants with curled in trunks are supposedly happy, while ones with out facing trunks are supposedly lucky.

We also learned that you can tell the difference between monkey statues and demon statues by looking at their feet; demons have shoes, monkeys don’t.

Market Day

Today we got up early (6:45 haha) to go to the Jatujak weekend market and the Or Tor Kor to look at stuff. The Or Tor Kor sells fruits and vegetables, while the Jatujak market has just about everything. We found the weekend market but then could not find the Or Tor Kor. So we just gave up on that idea and went to the park for a little bit. On the way home we decided to go to Tesco and buy some more food for breakfast. When we finally got home it was around three and I swam in the pool for a little bit. Then my mother joined me and she and I raced, me beating her most of the time. After that we went out to supper to the same place that we had supper at the day before yesterday and had the same things, too (bean curd with bean sprouts, chicken with sweet and sour sauce, and green curry soup with chicken.) 🙂

A Busy (and sweaty) day in Bangkok

Since you can’t be friends with dogs in Thailand and since it is so hot and Americans sweat so much, bottled water has become man’s new best friend. The pool at our hotel is fairly big, with fountains and tile whales at the bottom. We also found out today that 7-11 is a very common store on the streets behind our apartment building. On a single walk on only two streets we saw 4 7-11s!!!!

Help! There Are Whales In My Swimming Pool!!!

Today, Saturday for us and 1/2 Friday and 1/2 Saturday for you Pacific coasters, we got up at around 8 am, showered, and walked down the street 850 meters to the Chimney Café. We had an interesting mix of food- to drink, Mom and I had hot chocolates and Ethan and Dad had lattes. For the main course Mom and Ethan had chicken fried rice, Dad had green curry chicken, and I had a chicken soup of some sort and steamed rice. Let me tell you: salty chicken soup and a creamy latte don’t taste good together. At all!

Anyway, we decided we needed to make a plan for the rest of our time in Bangkok, so we spent what seemed like forever talking and writing and thinking. In the end, we decided that we needed to go grocery shopping. We rode the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) down three stops, from the Wat Pariwat stop 50 feet from our building to the Charoen Rat stop, which is number ten on the line. We’re near number seven.

At MaxValu, which is only a few feet from the BRT stop, there was a singing competition going on in what we discovered to be a mall. There was even an Office Max! That and the Nutella were the only really familiar parts, and I think we were the only white people there.

We bought some cool looking fruits, a mango, rice, a spicy looking sauce, eggs, an onion, and some shampoo. When we returned to our apartment, we ate another chocolate bar, and then Ethan and I went swimming in the awesome pool: it has blue tiles on the bottom and whales made with green tiles. It’s only about three feet deep in most places, but it has cool fountains to compensate. Ciao!

When in Bangkok

Today it is Saturday and we have been in Bangkok for about 30 hours, and we have done a lot of things. We have learned that almost all of the locals wear long pants and jeans, making us easy for pickpockets to spot as rich tourists if we wear shorts. So, since we decided to wear long pants, we sweated a lot yesterday as we walked around searching for the “elusive” 7-11, that, as it turns out is only a little ways down the street. We also have to keep ourselves from petting or in general, touching dogs, because most dogs in Thailand have rabies and sometimes rabies can be transferred by a lick of a dog. This change might be hard for me, since I really like dogs.

Waiting in an Airport

Our whole family has been up since 5:30 (some earlier) taking showers, eating breakfast, and getting ready to go to the airport. Since then we have ridden one plane from Portland to Seattle. Soon, though, we will fly away to Japan for another layover. Then we will fly to Bangkok, in Thailand. Right now, though, we are sitting in the United Lounge charging our electronics and waiting to go to our gate.

Afternoon Fun

We chose to go bowling (since it was raining), and we played two games at the Hollywod Bowl from 2 to 4 pm. All that arm use made us hungry, so we drove for forty-five minutes to get to the Old Spaghetti Factory, which was 3.5 miles away. On the bright side, if we had taken only five minutes to drive to the restaurant, it would have still been closed. (It opens for supper at 4:30 pm.) After spaghetti (obviously), spumoni, and Oreo milk shakes, we said good-bye to my aunt, uncle, and Fergus and headed to Fred Meyer because we couldn’t find a Target. There we bought things such as pencil sharpeners, plain watches, and erasers.

We checked into our airport hotel and made sure it had a pool. Then Ethan and I went swimming while our father went to return the rental car and our mother watched us (because we’re not 14 yet). We played Marco Polo… you should try playing that with two people in a small pool. You can bet you’re going to get tagged!

Ciao!

Height

Status

For those of you who know us well, you know that the height of Ethan, our mother, and me is very important to us. Until today, we thought that our mother was 4’11.5″. When Ethan and I were measured and it turned out that I am 4’11.5″, we took the time out of breakfast to measure Mother. Turns out, she’s 5′. Ethan’s still only 4’10.5″, and I’m lording it over him because I’m pretty sure he’ll end up taller than me. And you can bet there will be a post when one of us become taller than Mother.
Ciao!

Two more days!!

Two more days!! (and two exclamation marks, too!!)

Are you done packing?
We are leaving in two days! But we still have a lot to do. So no.
Is it hard to handle the fact that you will be away from home for a year?
Not that much, I mean, we don’t even know when we will come back, because the airlines only let people book tickets 330 days in advance so we won’t know anything until sometime in August.
How do you fit everything in boxes?
We don’t, but we make it seem like we do. So many people say stuff like they packed all their stuff in boxes that wasn’t furniture, but that isn’t true, most of the stuff we don’t pack ends up right alongside the stuff we do pack, but we won’t pack everything, like the stuff too big for boxes.
Oh………Well bye for now.