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Home Schooling in the Wide Wild World

Sol: 149 One of the challenges and biggest worries I had about this trip was the continuing IMG_4034education of our kids. I was really, really concerned that we would mess them up or get them really behind. I’ve expressed this on this blog and the sentiment takes up entirely too much space in my head.IMG_9725

It has been an adjustment to our parenting to add in the responsibility of our boys’ education along with the other parenting tasks: keeping the kids alive, feed and so forth. I’m a big follower of Dr. Laura Markman of Aha Parenting. An approach of empathy with limits in parenting has helped me as I process this.

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So, when talking to our kids about choices I often tell them or ask them to tell me what my job is as their parent. The mantra is that I’m to keep them “Happy, Healthy, Safe and Clean”. This helps when I have to explain a difficult decision or boundary that is unpopular with them (or me!).

IMG_9283Then add in the schooling and it is a whole new role. Yes, we have been teaching them since birth but, the structured approach of making sure the boys are ‘on track’ has been an interesting one.

The boys attend a Montessori school back in Oregon (We love Harmony Montessori!). We plan on returning to the school upon our return. In fact, it was a big bargaining chip when planning this trip that we would bring them back to a place they love, feel comfortable and back with friends.IMG_8743

In the meantime, we are the teachers. This big, wide, world is a great teacher. Now, 140+ days I see a lot of change in with the boys. They have always been curious but, they have found some comfort and connection in the places we staying and have grown in the discomfort.

It’s not so much about ‘touring’ but, about finding ways to do what we do in everyday life in Oregon on the road wherever we are. Eating, Laundry, Sleeping, Groceries, Food preparation (sounding like a child friendly version of The Shore?). It is a lot about routine and making sure people get their own spirits soothed.

IMG_8758With Kelvin and I, it doesn’t always work out as we are the only adults around to care for the kids but, that it is another post altogether.

So, the boys have found interesting ways to play, relax and learn. We have an established routine now. The first two months this was really hard at times as they are not used to us being the ‘teachers’. There was a lot of discussion on expectations and how they are learning (discussion would be a polite renaming of some of those discussions).

They are not expected to know things when learning. They are learning! It’s okay to not know and make mistakes.IMG_8948.jpg

Some of the tools we use include the Monday-Friday daily routine. We write out the schedule. It usually consists of the following which we write down and they follow in their Common Place books.

For Example: Today is Thursday, January 11th, 2018. We are in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Journal Writing
  • Math – 2 pages
  • Writing/English – 2 pages
  • Cursive practice
  • Cultural lesson – language, history, currency, religion
  • Research or Field Trip discussion.

All is mixed with breaks, wiggle it out, free draw, coloring, reading or even a short dance party.IMG_5713

The Common Place book is their notebook to write down the school list but, also words they are learning and lessons. It also holds all the doodles, drawings and cartoons that get made. We have been getting notebooks to write in a we move along. We also shipped some filled books home for safekeeping.

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Oakley has gone to making his own toys using boxes from cereal or crackers we buy. It is amazing what a pack of colored pencils and paper can bring.

Last Christmas we got the boys Kindles and we choose ones without internet access (only Wifi to choose books). These little lovelies have been the true companions. The boys curl up with their books for hours. It is a great time filler that feels good as a parent.

Also, their reading has improved so much with it. Yes, there are a lot of graphic novels, cartoons including several Calvin and Hobbes books but, it is reading. In fact, Calvin and Hobbes is how Canyon turned to love books.

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Canyon’s stats for 2017

We complied their stats at the end of the year and Canyon had read 55K pages and Oakley 42K. Their reading time adds up to just over two weeks for Canyon (371 hours) and a one week for Oakley (172 hours). That is amazing. I feel better about how we are doing this.

[caption id="attachment_3378" align="alignleft" width="124"]IMG_0409.jpg Oakley’ Stats for 2017

Now, we are reading the Harry Potter books. I am reading them out loud and Canyon is chasing us with his own reading. Some of the best memories of this trip are being curled up on a bed with

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the boys and reading.

So, as we move into the next months we look at our learning and take stock of what works and what doesn’t. There is a real rhythm to our work. We are finding our way.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Waiting for a ride in Ubud.

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Oakley drawing in Hawaii

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Australian money session while camping.

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Homeschool while house/pet sitting in Brisbane, Australia. That’s Kody there!

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Canyon’s dream journal!

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Thailand Holiday Rest and Recuperation

Sol: 134

We have been in Thailand for over three weeks. It’s a bit of a struggle these last days as its been hard travels in a way. Now, I am not complaining as I do know that what we are doing is amazing and I am incredibly grateful that we have been able to make this happen.

However, when you do something, even something amazing, after awhile it can lose a bit of it’s shine. This blog is all about the honesty of our travel and experiences. Today, I’m writing a bit about that.

The struggle really started in Vietnam. I really feel in love that country, however, it was hard travels at times. I had been struggling with some physical ailments (back pain, sleep issues, digestive challenges) Then I got pretty ill. Headache, fever, chills, throat pain. You know that feeling that you’ve swallowed broken glass? I was there. I was going through Ricolas like cigarettes for a heavy smoker.

We had to travel to Thailand as our Vietnamese visa was expiring and we had plane tickets. It is relatively easy and cheap to buy airline tickets in SE Asia but, they are also non-refundable and changeable if you buy them as cheaply as we had been. Then if you have four tickets, it is a larger cost. So, to Thailand we came.

We landed in Bangkok. Nothing like a city of over 8 million, humidity, a smaller hostel room for four to emphasize your discomfort. For our entire time in Bangkok’s Chinatown (where our hostel was) I saw the inside of a hospital (twice) and a 7/11 (they are everywhere in SE Asia) to get supplies.

Oakley came down with my flu and bronchitis a couple of days after arrival. Canyon and Kelvin running errands to arrange food and supplies and holding their breath when near to avoid our plague.

We came to Pattaya for our house sit which has positively saved us. I gotta throw out the biggest kudos to   Trusted Housesitters again as they have made this trip possible for us. We are taking care of the sweetest, mellowest dog I’ve ever met all while staying in a home, a real home with a big kitchen (great for chef husband) and two big bedrooms, living spaces and the added bonus of a swimming pool. Really, really luxorious and grounding.

And when we slow down other things often catch up to us. I have found that I am feeling a bit lonely and depressed as of late. The holidays are always a hard time for plenty of folks. For me this is no exception.

We are in a beautiful place in warm weather. The dream of many folks, especially with all those winter storms happening in the States at the moment. Yet, I am feeling a bit rudderless. I think this is the longest place we have stayed in the last 4+ months of travel.

I was really worried about making it a wondrous and memorable Holiday for the boys. Knowing they would be missing so many traditions and experiences. I think we pulled it off as we were able to find strands of Twinkly lights to put up where we were, found a Star Wars Lego Advent calendar which can do wonders for little boys psyches. We even found a 5 ft plastic tree for $10. A bargain!

Seeing the Christmas celebrations here in Asia is different as it is a lot about the decorations in public. The holiday trees, lights, reindeer and sometimes Santa but, rarely him. Also, I haven’t seen any nativity scenes anywhere.

We did manage to find the coldest place we could on Christmas Eve. Frost Magical Ice of Siam which consists of sand sculptures on the outside and a glorified meat locker on the inside. You walk and slide among ice sculptures. You even get an ice drink made from ice and get to gleefully throw it against an ice wall as you depart. How very satisfying!

The most entertaining part of that visit was watching locals shiver through the place in about a minute. We spent about 25 minutes inside (they have a requisite three minute acclimation period going in and out of each side). Many people spent more time in the acclimation room than in the actual ice room.

I am currently on a two day trip on my own. It is a little reprieve for my soul to have a bit of totally me time. You may not realize how much time you spend away from your family when people are going to work, school, playdates, babysitters, shopping or trips around the neighborhood.

It is completely different when you cannot leave your kids by themselves. Kelvin and I haven’t had awake time  alone in months, especially in daylight. I am enjoying not thinking about when we eat next, what to do next, thinking about how everyone might react to the next choice.

I am carefree for a couple days and loving the solitude. I’ll be be back soon and then we send Kelvin out for three days/two nights on a fishing trip. He too needs his recharge time. These are the Christmas presents we gave each other.

And so, now we are appreciating our place, our temporary home before we embark into the new year and the next travel adventures. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Happy Holidays! Happy 2018 or 2561 if you are following the Thailand calendar.

Check out the 31-12-61 reference. The Thai Calendar.

My favorite isle in the specialty store we found. So many kinds of fizzy water.

Wine from Oregon costing a princely price.

We got a flat tire and people showed up to help and really weren’t gonna let us fix it. Very, very kind. It takes a village and then there is Canyon reading his kindle in the background.

 

Would you like some meat for dinner?

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20 Observations in Vietnam – Scooters, Coffee, Critters and More

Sol 109

Going into our fourth week in Vietnam. Arrived in Hanoi by an eighteen hour overnight train from Da Nang. We have found a place that is the nicest and most comfortable we have stayed in in awhile. The washer machine actually dries clothes too. We haven’t had that since Australia!

It’s the Christmas season and we are adjusting to being in a place that is not full of our usual holiday extras. I’ll write more about that later but, firstly I wanted to share some thoughts and observances I’ve had since arriving in this amazing country.

Things I have noticed in Vietnam. A random list.

1 – People selling things on their motorbike will have a recording      announcing what they are selling and will play it over and over while driving around. You can flag them down and buy whatever it is they have. Usually, it is some meal. The scooter may even have a glowing hot oven on the side.

2 – Vietnamese people really, really like kids. Our boys are smiled at and coddled over almost everywhere we go. Oakley being least likely to want attention does have some discomfort in this and for Canyon, it depends on his mood. Sometimes he laps it up. Other times, he gets exasperated. It must be similar to what it is like if you are a famous person in other cultures. They are consistently told they are ‘so handsome’! People (usually a woman) will drop whatever she is doing and come over to touch their cheeks.

3 – There is construction constantly going on somewhere. It never ends. Never, ever, ever.

4 – There are at least 30 different ways you can get your coffee. They certainly give Starbucks a run for their money.

5 – It is easy to forget this is a communist country but, remember when you see the political posters everywhere, very little advertising (except outside a local cafe) and handing over your passports every time you stay somewhere new.

6 – The Vietnam/American war was not that long ago and there are plenty of reminders of this intense history. Yet, for the Vietnamese it is a blip on their several 1000 year old history. There seems to be no hard feelings about the war.

7 – The beaches here are amazingly beautiful even in the rainy season.

8 – If it floods, we are told, ‘you just go to the 2nd floor’. Not a lot of worries about that here as it seems to happen a lot.

9 – The garbage/refuse system seems to be is that people just put their bag of rubbish on the street and someone will come along and pick it up. It seems randomly coordinated but, bags don’t stay long. And, as I cringingly found out, sometimes a rat will be getting his take on the trash as it sits there.

 

10 – The bread here is amazing and likely has to do with the French colonial influence. The mini baguette is a staple for many breakfasts with eggs and are sooooo airy inside and crunchy on the outside. Delightful.

11 – Scooter, motorcycles and mopeds are EVERYWHERE. People can carry almost anything on a scooter and the bikes are often driving right into people’s living rooms for the night for safe keeping.

12 – This is a tropical country so, you get to see some big, little critters. In the last days, we’ve had a cockroach in our flat (which Oakley terrifyingly mistook for a tarantula) and many, many in our train carriage, a super fat rat (my phobia) munching on our buildings refuse pile, the praying mantis that guarded our bathroom for a week and would leap on your feet when the water flowed (to have a drink?), beautiful butterflies, dragon flies and your requisite flies, ants and mosquitos that come around pretty frequently.

13 – The blend of traditional (straw hats, bicycles) to the high tech (smart phones everywhere, apps on tablets to order drinks or check you into your berth on the train) is fascinating to observe.

14 – If you want to buy something you will need to bargain for it. Even in the markets the granola bars or bottled water will change prices depending on who is working, what is going on with the weather.

15 – Massages in Vietnam are a whole body experience. The masseuse will literally climb onto your back and legs will use their feet, knees, elbows and hands to work out your kinks. It is not for the faint of heart and if you have any IT band issues consider them ‘worked on’ after they are done with you. You will be sore for days to come.

16 – You are strongly discouraged from any public display of affection with your loved ones. With parents to children it is okay but, a very, very big no no to kiss or canoodle in public.

17 – You will have to get boiled or bottled water for any tasks or thirst. Much like everywhere in we have encountered in SE Asia. You are not encouraged to drink from the tap. We are in the habit of going to the bathroom with a bottle of water to brush our teeth and if water is set on the table while we are out, the boys immediately ask what source it came from. Don’t take your clean, tap water for granted!

18 – You can get any item of clothing made in a couple of hours for a very reasonable price. The tailor work is impeccable and remarkable. You dream it, they will sew it.

19 – You can buy outdoor gear that would put REI and Sportsman Wearhouse to shame. I found the exact Osprey backpack I got for my birthday at the market and I cringed when I say that I paid 70% more for it in the States. Shoes, coats, backpacks are all really marked up when they leave the country.

20 – The confluence of religions here is notable. It is a communist country and we were told that if you have a religion you were discouraged to apply for a government job (or at least say you don’t have a religion). Yet, there are a number of Christian charities that operate cafes hiring people with disabilities. People practice any number of various religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism to name a few.

I have many other observations to share and will but, first wanted to share these thoughts from my perch in Hanoi. Until soon. Be well and thanks for reading.

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Singapore Style in a Whirlwind 48 Hours

A whirlwind excursion in Singapore

To get a cheaper flight to Vietnam we traveled to Singapore to catch a cheaper option. I also wanted to visit this place that my parents had been to so many times over the decades as it holds a place of mystery and reverence for me.

Parent Memories

My Dad did a lot of business in Asia in the 1970s to the end of his life. At least once a year my parents would travel to Asia often for about a three-week period when they would visit Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan among other places. Nancy Joy Memorial Show 2001.027In the 1990s, I worked for a short time in Hong Kong for a colleague of my Dad’s. It was an interesting time and experience.

Singapore always invokes a mix of west and east for me. Amazingly, I never got to travel in Asia with my mom and did go to Hong Kong once with my Dad. Being here now, I so ache for an experience of walking around with them if only for a day or a couple of hours. Both of my parents have passed and this trip is often a tip of a hat in their direction as they instilled the love to travel in me partly due to their extensive travel while my brothers and sister were growing up.

I do know, we have very different travel styles. My family and I are decidedly budget oriented. My Dad’s businesses had him ‘smoozing’ folks so, I think there were a lot more high-end hotels, banquet dinners and glasses of cognac.fullsizeoutput_a03a

For a decade, my mom built a part-time career writing about her travels and food. Her muse in her food column, frequently came from her travels with my Dad. She would travel around Asian cities on her own while my Dad was in meetings. I look back and think it had to be rather lonely at times. It is sometimes lonely being with your family in a place where you are the stranger in a strange land.

Strong memories stir as we wander around Singapore. I know my mom thought the world of the Raffles Hotel. We decided to go there for a Singapore Sling and look around. fullsizeoutput_a024While most of it is under re-construction, it held an air of prestige with high ceilings, white columns, giant billiard tables and support staff dressed as Raj royalty. It felt a  little rich for my blood but, I did love being there and smiling up at my mom.

Indulgences 

The Singapore Sling was tasty but, SO EXPENSIVE! We have had accommodations that were cheaper than that drink. Let me put it this way, two Singpore Slings, one mocktail the kids shared and to appetizers cost the same as four nights in our place in Da Nang, Vietnam. I am glad we did it even though we are committed to noodles made at home for several nights to make up our budget!

IMG_7721The food areas in Chinatown and the Golden Mile were well worth a visit. IMG_7828Sumptuous food for really fraction of that cocktail! Such a wide array of foods; Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, even Italian, English and American among others.

The journey from Malaysia – leaving Johor to Singapore was a bit of a struggle. Our boys are struggling with their backpacks and this border crossing you have to walk a lot. You have to walk through several areas to leave Malaysia, then ride a bus across the bridge to then go through another series of rooms and passport checkins to then end up without an access to an ATM, a phone with a SIM card that didn’t work anymore and no free WiFi which is frequently available at other ports of entry. We were able to get a taxicab which we have rarely taken as the cost is less predictable.

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Look at the ships in the international waters. Looks like a real life version of battleship.

We have taken a fair amount of Ubers and Grab Cars during our travels. Grab cars (or motor scooters) is like an Uber and you can pay in cash. You can also order food to be delivered or even a masseur to be sent to you. We haven’t tried that option yet although it is tempting!

The people were very, very friendly and of course, with a 1% crime rate we felt pretty safe. In fact, I went to buy a SIM card and the salesman loaded it in my phone and then informed me that they take cash only. I grimaced and slightly panicked.  IMG_7776I didn’t have any cash on me. He directed towards an ATM several blocks away.

Trusting me to come back and pay him. On my way back I got a little lost in a sudden downpour and finally found the shop again. He seemed nonplussed that it took me awhile. No big deal, he shrugged.

I was told there are cameras everywhere so, you may not see police but, they are watching. If you do something you will get seen and visited within 24 hours. This includes chewing gum. Yep, not legal. And don’t even think about selling it!

Singpore Flyer – View of the World

The Singapore Flyer was a treat. My husband kept calling the Portland Flyer – a nod to our hometown hockey team. It was sweet. The ride is a half hour-long and is like a giant ferris wheel.

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Our Space Capsule in the Signapore Flyer

It was spendy but, worth the view especially since we got to have the entire capsule to ourselves. It is reportedly, the largest ferris wheel in the world.

The view was incredible especially when you’re told that on a clear day you can see into three countries and 45 kilometers. It was amazing to see all the ships in the harbor, just outside the Singapore border. We were told that the waters are calmer there and that ships often hang out in the international waters waiting to port.

I think all of Singapore feels expensive, especially the accommodations. I cashed in some Chase miles to get a room that was somewhat more reasonable.

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How most takeaway is served. Add a straw and drink your chai.

It is amazing as just across the border the same place would be about 80% cheaper.

We were told that road to the airport has potted greenery in the median in order to create an emergency runway if needed. Singapore is a tiny, island country with a lot of personality, grace and grit.

We purposely spent just a couple of days there so, we could gather ourselves for our trip to Vietnam. All in all a good, brief visit.

Thanks for following! As always, please let me know that you think of the blog. I love hearing from you.

More from Vietnam soon.

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Smoothie? Made with real sugar cane? Why, yes you can!

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Darn, the fresh frog porridge place is closed!

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Chinatown

 

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Lego-lisiousness in Legoland!

Sol 86

As I sit up on my 9th story perch in Ho Chi Mihn City

HCMC Writing Spot

 

I am reflecting on our time in Malaysia. There is so much to write about here in Vietnam and I will get to that but, first want to revisit our adventures at Legoland in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.

Going to a theme park was not part of our original plan but, the opportunity came up, our kids LOVE Legos and the boys were struggling with a bit of homesickness.

The Lobby of Legoland Hotel

Now, do we run off to a theme park every time we are sad…no but, it sure doesn’t hurt to go that extra kilometer (see what I did there with the metric system reference?) to soothe ourselves a bit.

LEGOLAND HOTEL

Legoland Malaysia was pretty sweet. I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was a teenager but, I imagine it is like the ‘happiest place on earth’. We decided to stay at the Legoland Hotel which has themed rooms with scavenger hunts, Lego characters walking around, life-size Lego mini figures, characters walking around and LEGOS everywhere to play with. Big blocks and little blocks.

There are daily building contests and workshops as well as a character parade in the lobby. It was so sweet to see joy on so many faces. Not just ours but, the plenitude of families from all over. There were families there from India, China, and all over SE Asia. We were definitely the minority as we would nod hello to another ‘Western” family from time to time.

Breakfast and dinner buffets were a cultural lesson in itself. So many options of food from standard Western choices to a plethora of Eastern ones too. Did you want Dim Sum with your pancakes? Or French Pastries with Chinese Congee porridge with dried fish on top? Or a traditionally poured spiced chai, watermelon juice, white coffee or full cream milk?

Out in the park, did you want to swim in your hijib or swimsuit or use the body dryer (like a giant hair dryer for your whole body) after getting wet on a ride? Did you want to pray when the call to prayer happened or have a dragon fruit smoothie?

Prayer Spot in Park

All of this while being surrounded by Lego figures?

Our room was the Adventure theme which the boys picked out. It seemed very appropriate for our current journey. Maps and decor from an Egyptian papyrus abound.

Huge ‘Body Dryers’ and all the teens getting dry.

Because we are family half filled with introverts we spent plenty of time in the room. While it was our first place without a kitchen during our travels we did order room service which, amazingly didn’t cost more than the restaurant and the delivery folks refused tips only wanting you to put in a good word at the ‘opinion kiosks’ around the place.

A scooter accident portrayed at Mini-land

THE PARKS

The rides were fine. Oakley tried his first roller coaster and was thrilled. The most impressive areas to me were the Minilands where replicas of iconic places around Asia are constructed to impressive, minute detail. Even the scooter accidents with media and police presence on the street. I could have spent hours here. It was super hot so, we melted as we perused even with the welcome mister machines nearby.

The Star Wars exhibit was stunning with a room dedicated to each episode including the TV Clone Wars. We are Star Wars family so, we loved this geeked out to our hearts content.

They have a water park as well and it was also fine. A lazy river bobbing with big legos you can attach to your floating device. A ‘Build a Raft” float as it were.

In any case, it was lovely to have a big family time in what felt like a big playground. I heard ‘Everything is Awesome’ more times than I care to count but, it was worth it. We did let the boys get a few, small Lego sets to take with us on the road as nothing beats the blues like a couple of hours of Lego play.

A BALANCE OF TRAVEL AND FAMILY

Our travel journey is of where we are going but, it is also richly in the details of our relationships with our kids and between my husband and I. We are a collection of varying personalities and we all need different things to fill our batteries. We discover that more and more as we move along.

Family outings are my favorite and seeing the world whiz by in my window really fills my cup but, I know Oakley and Kelvin need more down time. Canyon too at times. I do too in my own way. Writing is actually very, very helpful for me to sort my head.

I get worried about the things we are doing or not doing and if we are keeping the kids on track in school. Do we communicate enough with family and friends. How do we sort out the time differences and make connections.

Accepting that we can be doing a once in a lifetime thing and still feel rather lonely and miss down time tucked in our oversized duvet back in Oregon.

It is all a balance. And we are working on it day by day. Okay, okay….enough about our inner-psyche.

Next, we headed to Singapore for a couple of days before heading to Vietnam. More on that in our next blog.

As always, thanks for reading and following!

I’m still in love with my Chef Husband but, it was nice to met Lego Chef!

The Deathstar!

The bathrooms at Legoland

Mini-Legoland

Ha! Love the sense of humor!

Fresh Seafood at Legoland?

 

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Malaysia on My Mind

Sol 74 

We are on week two in Malaysia and just left Kuala Lumpur for the south. We came  to be near a big city to find some Halloween experiences for our sometimes homesick boys, buy some supplies and to make some plans. 

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Halloween party at Jump Street

IMG_7256It has been a delightful place to see albeit a bit further removed from our more hands on experience in Bali. A bit of an adjustment after Bali as we are on the 16th floor of a shiny apartment and not even a third of the scooters we have been used to seeing whizzing past.

We have been introduced to a large, multicultural city which is predominately Muslim and full of dining, entertainment choices and other big city options. We have spent some time planning our next weeks as well as taking care of some tasks. Kuala Lumpur is known for ‘medical tourism’ and I decided to try it out.

I have hypothyroidism for 10 years and have been managing this by getting blood tests every couple months and taking an appropriate dose of daily medication to balance it. When I left Portland, I had a three month supply of my medication and our last prescription plan wouldn’t let me have anymore. Which is not usual, but annoying. So, I knew I would need to get a new supply from the road. 

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Check out the hours. He is almost always here.


So, I went to a doctor here in Kuala Lumpur. The host of our Airbnb helped me find one and my experience was pretty interesting, at least from the point of view of an American used to our complicated medical/insurance institutions.

The Doctor, Dr. Anthony Samy, was everything I needed including kind and no-nonsense.

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Dr. Anthony

I had to show up and wait (no appointments allowed) but, only waited about 30 minutes. He chatted with me, asked what I needed and took a blood sample. His assistants spent a lot time calculating prices of medications and we got it all sorted out.

Two days later I came back for the results, another consult and then was given four months of medications. My only concern was that the sense of privacy is different there.

They took me in a room to be weighed and there was the doctor at his desk talking to another patient.

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Paying for my medications.

“Oh, excuse me!” I said, but, they were indifferent, shrugged their shoulders and went back to their conversation.

The medical office also takes you on without a lot of information. My script has my first name only on it. It reminded me of Dr. Fleishman in Northern Exposure when Marilyn would just number the people in the waiting room.

While I was a bit worried about the process, it turned out fine. In the entire process with two doctors visits, blood sample, lab work/results and four months medication the total cost was $61. Wow…

In Kuala Lumpur we also visited the tallest twin buildings in the world. The Petronas Twin Towers  and  KL Bird Park an amazing bird park with an outdoor aviary several acres big. We also visited the National Mosque of Malaysia and they proudly told us that Obama had visited there just last year.IMG_7392

fullsizeoutput_9dc8In our world-schooling lesson we had a long lesson on mosques and Islam. It is always fascinating for Kelvin and I to see things and think they are a big deal and then have the boys just accept all as ‘normal’. People doing their everyday tasks, working as a nurse, checkout person at the grocery store, kids jumping on trampolines or on school trip at the park – all in their hijibs. So many colorful varieties.

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The other Twin Tower and I

Normalizing plurality. Always a good world-school lesson.

We are in Malaysia for one more week then are heading to Vietnam with a two day visit in Singapore. We made to Johur yesterday via bus from Kuala Lumpur. From our current place we can see across the river into Singapore and the kids love being able to say. “Hey, I can see into another country over there!” and then they collapse in a pile of giggles.

As usual, thanks for following.

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National Mosque

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School on the Bus to Johur.

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Our Bali Excursion is Winding Down, Our Life Long Love Affair is Just Beginning

Sol 61: Coming up on three weeks in Bali. We’ve had some highs and some lows. The awe at the constant beauty around us has not waned. It seems every time I look up I see something unique, amazing, delightful or a bit different and quirky.

The bargaining never stops.

New Kite Flying Friends

My husband is tallying a list of ‘things I have seen being carried on a scooter’ and it just about contains everything possible. I’ve seen tiny, tiny babies nestled between ma and pa, panes of glass being held aloft, piles of branches, sticks and grass, complete mini-stores where one might make a meal or sell you a plethora of snacks. All of this wheeling by you.

Dewi makes the best meals!

The places we have stayed have been varied from an estate/villa such as the place we are at now to a house in the middle of a more tattered neighborhood where our point woman was amazing. She arranged for our boys to fly kites with her sons and made the best Nasi Goreng.

Emade, our amazing driver from Ubud. Email him for driving at nyoman.wati72@gmail.com

We ended up leaving early though as we found a dead bird under our bed and a bird nest above our son’s bed in the thatched roof that was less than sanitary. Bird poo on your sheets and pillows? We had to draw the line somewhere. The host (whom we never met) told us by email ‘that is nature’ and I am inclined to think it is but, it doesn’t have to be on my son’s head.

Dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

We are getting more adaptive in the heat. I wouldn’t say more used to it. You can see why people have plunge pools to dip into and wash off the heat of the day.

Monkey back rubs at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

We can see Mt. Agung from our current house and she is still resting. We are grateful for this but, also are acutely aware that there are several thousand people still living away from their homes out of the evacuation zone in refugee camps. This is heart breaking and a struggle.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Our boys have adjusted to mom and dad being the guides/teachers for the interim.

They are adjusting and we are soaking up our last week here as Friday, we head to Malaysia

There are very typical Bali experiences I am committing to memory. I share 10 of them with you here.

  • the sweeping up of all the flowers that fell overnight with a broom made of palm leaves.
  • the sweet smell of incense and tiny offerings that show up before most doors or walkways.
  • the low, guttural mooing of the cows with giant bells around their necks.
  • the assortment of flying bugs some bedazzling with colorful, sparkling wings and others just larger than I have ever seen before.
  • houses with open walls that get transformed in the evening to a closed in space with the pull of a curtain.
  • the frogs that take up residence in the bathrooms or guarding the end of  our bed.
  • the offer of a 100 cab, scooter rides if you are merely standing on the side of the road.
  • the vibrant color of fruit smoothies that rival any modern painting
  • the intricate carvings in wood and stone that are done with a hammer by the roadside
  • the absolute kindness of most people who wish to see you well.

Canyon warning the rabbits they may become pets or someone’s dinner.

Nothing like seeing a structure that is over 600 years old when your own country’s european settlement history started after this temple was built.

My new favorite Pringles flavor?

Doorway to our current bedroom.

Boys paying respects by wearing a sarong and really looking good while doing it!

Night food market.

Grilling the meat and using the fan to bring in the customers as well as spread the smoke.

Kelvin in his element with the cutest photo bomber in the back!

Tenenungan Waterfalls

Reading Kindles while waiting for a ride.

 

Family photo

A huge shout out to our friends Robyn and Mark who hosted us a couple times in Australia. We want them to know we so appreciate them!! Happy Wedding next month!

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A Lush, Green Paradise, a 15 Year Anniversary and 20 things I have noticed.

We have arrived in our first country during our round the world journey where English is not the mother tongue. Even more than that, the surroundings are unlike any we would encounter in our home in Oregon.

We had a few hiccups to get us here. I spent so much time sorting out the information about the visas I missed that tiny line about how you must have a proven departure plan before they will even let you on the plane.

So, we were at the Brisbane airport Jetstar check in counter (for the first time) and I hurriedly bought four tickets on a ferry to Singapore. I was punching the details of all our passports into my iPhone screen hoping that the credit card I am using would work to buy the tickets. And what’s more, that we will be able to use them.

The port is a place about 1000 miles from where we were staying but, it IS in Indonesia! Thanks so much to the airline representative who helped me do this rather than be forced to buy another airline ticket. Times four!

Earlier, we had already experienced not being picked up by our pre-scheduled Uber ride and frantically had to book another taxi to get us to the airport. I dislike that kind of scramble to the airport.

While we were checking into our flight (after I bought my ferry tickets) they had a lock down at the JetStar check-in counter. I felt like we were at a cooking contest as they yelled out for everyone to step away and hands up from the computers.

For several tense minutes, we all stood around and scrolled through our phones to see if there was some new information about Mt. Agung, the aged volcano currently smoking in Bali. Nothing. Just a false alarm and after a short while we all got ticketed and sent to the gate. The duty free gin never looked better!

It was about a 5 and a half hour flight and the pilot said he was getting updates on the volcano every five minutes and we would ‘act accordingly’. No sure what that means but, okay. He’s in charge.

Onward, a flight with some movie watching and an occasional peek out into the darkness with the hope to see a glimpse of the magical land we were winging toward.

We arrived in Bali and the humidity hugged us like a damp sweatshirt. Wandering through the airport to the immigration hall that had ceilings about four stories high I knew we had arrived.

My Dragon Fruit Smoothie

A friend arranged a pick up (thank you Drew!) and we were mesmerized by the steady of stream of motorbikes that swarmed around us as we motored down the narrowest of roads in the dark. It was like being with a bunch of ants. You just went with the flow.

Asking for prayers for the people in evacuation camps from the Mt. Agung volcano watch area

The next day we headed up to Ubud, known for its rice patty fields, cultural dances and, most recently, the popularly of Eat, Pray, Love. And currently, a spat of downpours that wipe the humidity from the air and feed the rice.

In Bali, tourism accounts for about a third of the economy so, there is always someone to help you with your questions, desires or plans. That is certainly the case in Ubud.

We are staying at a place I found on Airbnb as I wanted to have something set for the celebration of our 15 years of marriage! Whoo-hoo! This home is a dream, it feels palatial. It was a splurge to our budget at $42 a night. 

So much swimming around my head. More to process and share.

Here’s my my list of 20 things I have noticed after arriving in Bali in the first day and a half.

Three Little Monkeys Sitting on a Bench.

 

 

 

20 things I have noticed since arriving in Bali.

1- There are scooters everywhere and they hold such a variety of people carrying a multitude of things.
2- A rice field walk with Drew was awe-inspiring. We saw people working, rice-growing, ducks, giant spiders.
3- The spiders can be very, very, very big. With bodies as big as a hummingbird.
4-People are very, kind and helpful.
5- The roads are very narrow and have various surfaces, rarely a sidewalk and gaping holes about every 25 feet. Makes for an interesting stroll.
6- It is very humid and the rain comes in downpours.
7- Butterflies, moths, are frequently flying around. They are black, blue and many colors.
8- The beds come with mosquito netting and it looks so romantic.
9- People carry loads on their heads to free up their hands.
10-Geckos, lizards are all over the place. We counted 24 outside our place last night.
11- Ducks can be pets and hang out in the rice patties during the day and get walked home at night by following a flag on a pole.
12- Our place has a little pool and it is delightful.
13- The dollar to Rupiah exchange is 13,435. So you can feel like a millionaire when things cost 60,000 Rupiah and you can buy it with ease. That is the going cost of all four of us getting a ride to the center of town, equivalent of about $4.45.
14-It is hard to figure our what everything costs with such big numbers.
15-There are offerings nearly everywhere for most everyday activities. You find these beautifully folded offerings and incense in the most delightful places.
16-If you order Western food it will look differently than you expect.
17- It is really quiet when you get away from the roads.
18 – There are chickens everywhere. They are like wild mice (aka rats).
19-Alcohol is rather expensive.
20-You need to drink bottled water. Even to brush your teeth.

More to come. We will be here for at least two more weeks. More adventures to be had. More plans to be made. Let’s hope that volcano behaves.

Family Commute

Cooking oil for sale at grocery. Makes a lot more sense to take it home and put it in your own container.

Local boys using a fish to fish.

A Royal Bathroom

Happy, jet lagged boys in a field.

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3 Cats, 3 Dogs, 3 Chickens, 1 boy who turned 10 and a Volcano Watch.

Sol 42: We are in our last week in OZ! I didn’t know was the nick name for this wonderful country as every time I hear that I think of a prison drama on HBO but, never you mind.

Last week, we went a different direction by splurging on passes to the amusement park of Dream World and White Water World .  This is out of the ordinary for us but, one turning 10 is a pretty big deal too.

We have never been to Disneyland but, this may count as a good alternative. Kelvin and I have not been to any Disney park since the 1980s so, we don’t have a lot to compare it to.

It was fun, some crazy rides and loads of old school favorites. Also, not so crowded so all introverts in the family adjusted well. We packed our lunches and easily headed to the car to eat or carried what we needed with us.
For an eight year old and newly minted ten-year old it was the ‘bees knees’. My words, not theirs. Theirs included ‘This is sick!’ and ‘What the ‘bleep’ (yes, they say actual word bleep).

These sound bites don’t sound so good in print. It felt good to be in a place with a bunch of other kids too.

There are few amusement parks where you can see Kangaroos, Dingoes, Bilbys, and lizards that are all over the place. They might even visit your picnic lunch (the lizards, not the Dingoes!).

Oakley’s favorite place was the Lego Store as you walked in. This sounds like the ‘liquor store’ when spoken by a native Aussie so, my confusion was apparent. And disappointed to having no wine with the Legos. But, alas.

Canyon starting his Chauffeur career.

Canyon, our ever-present water hound, was pleased with all the water slides and joyous drops from up high. He even learned to drive a little.

Kelvin took a lot of photos (you should check out his blog at Degrees of Kelvin to see some of his perspective on this trip.

He always shows us sides of the trip we hadn’t seen and close-ups with all the birds and animals. All of us had a great time, we had a couple of day pass that we felt was very affordable.

Which was good as Oakley had a fever the first day and he and I hung out at the house with the dogs for the day while Kelvin and Canyon adventured.

Canyon bringing Mossimo back as Oakley looks down from the bedroom.

The dog and chicken sit is going well. There are three dogs with varying personalities and one is blind so, we carry him down the stairs to wee/poo. The house is called a Queenslander so, it basically built on stilts.

It is a single level for living but, the bottom is like an open spaced garage/washroom/storage room. Fresh eggs every morning is a plus as well.

We also have been getting in our last swims in the Australian seas as well as trips to the pharmacies, book stores and other supply places we might not so easily access on our next leg.

We have been finding our way with the world-schooling. It is a rhythm that we are all trying to balance. Kelvin and I take turns ‘teaching’ or ‘guiding’ as in the Montessori way.

We did Skype with the classroom and that was helpful for the boys to see some of their friends and realize that they are far behind or missing big events.

Yes, there are doing cool things in school but, it’s not like the boys are left out. As they check in with their reporting of their adventures. This helps with the home/friend-sickness that comes up from time to time.

Did I mention that volcano? The last couple weeks there is has been a lot in the news about Mt.Agung’s volcano activity.

List to report to the class.

We have talked with ex-pats that are there and contacted several places and we are getting the go ahead to proceed.

Even the Balinese Tourism Chief asked folks to not change their plans and to still come to Bali. We are not planning on being in place near the Mt.Agung so we are going.

We don’t currently have flight plans to leave which is for the best as we can pick and choose when and where we go next.

We have accommodations for nearly three weeks and will keep a keen eye on what is happening.

The last couple days are connections with long time friends. Staying in their wonderfully comfy, clean house warm with lively conversation, tasty meals and, as Oakley ferreted out, more Legos.

We did tip our hat to OZ at Sky Point , one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere. It was a great way to get some perspective when getting ready to leave an area.

The views were unsurprising and there were many, many pods of Humpback Whales breaching, slapping and altogether frolicking out in the ocean. Oz is truly friendly, beautiful and ginormous. We will have to come back.

I think this just might be Kelvin and I in Lego form.

Kody helping Kelvin even though he is blind and deaf he knows good food when he smells it. So do the Geckos that climbed in the window to peek at the activity.

On the job, walking the dogs.

Canyon is trying three new things in each country and it was Sushi for his birthday. A new love for him (and a delight for me!).

Dinner with Deb, our first Trusted Housesitter host and a friend for life now. She has also offered Canyon an opportunity to come back when older to sit again.

 

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Camper Van Beethoven up the East Coast

Sol 29 – Starting our fifth week. The last 10 days have been filled with vast views outside and some tight living quarters inside. After our first pet sit we ambled into the world in a camper van affectionately named ‘Beethoven’. Any lover of indie rock from the 90s might know what I am taking about.

We drove up the East Coast and boy, it is a BIG country. This seem longer because it is written in kilometers but, also they list cities that are 1700 kilometers away! It makes you feel that you are really on the long haul. Then there are the serious but, somehow seemly cute signs warning you of Kangaroos and Koala bear crossings.

We spent a lot of time checking out different beach fronts and finding the magic of Rainbow Beach where the colors of the sands are a painters dream. So many hues.

We camped at 1770 Holiday Park, in 1770, the town with the historical significance of  the only town to be named a number and after when Captain Cook landed in….you guessed it 1770.

Then to Hervey Bay where the tide rolls in and out for 100s of yards (or meters!) and the sea life is majestic. We stayed at a place called Scarness which Kelvin kept saying was ‘scariness’ which made us giggle as it would be an odd name for such a beautiful place.

We made some great connections in the holiday parks and the boys made some friends learning some ‘footie’ i.e. rugby, a smattering of cricket and taking part in delightful discussions of favorite candy bars and breakfast foods while swimming and diving for Australian coins. We were kindly and generously served Australian wines and given some great insights of places to go and very kind inquiries of our travels. Thanks Fiona and Tony!!

Oakley seems to be having the toughest transition. Every time we have ‘world school’ he melts as if he’s lost his bone structure into a small puddle. He has some sniffles about missing his friends. We soothe with Legos, familiar songs and hugs but, it is hard for him at times. It is hard to see him sad and we work to help.

Canyon seems to be a bit more resilient but, is up and down lately especially the closer we get to his 10th birthday (on the 24th) which he is simultaneously excited for and worried that no one will remember.

Since we are on a pretty tight budget we have to be really thoughtful about where we spend our money especially when it comes to experiences. We decided we needed to have some experience out on the water since we were at the Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and when would that happen again? Also, we so wanted to go to Fraser Island but, it was just too cost prohibitive for us.

But, we did find a gem in our experience on the Pacific Whale Foundation . They are not profit putting their earnings back into research which they were conducting while we where onboard. We saw an amazing array of whales, mommas, escorts and babies, who seemed to be just flirting with our boat all afternoon doing all the activity described on the phamplet.  Even our guides seemed to be impressed with the activity.

We also saw jumping tuna (our cat back home would have been out of her mind!) and sea turtles. The captain even took us close to Fraser Island to see white sand coast line and search for dingo sightings.

We have been frequenting the grocery stores to plan our meals. I think we have only eaten out as family three times since arriving in Australia. One was a fish and chips delight, another a pub dinner that was okay and another the first day at the shopping center food court in our jet lagging weariness.

Being married to a chef has its perks. We did take advantage of one of the countless free BBQs all over in nearly every park. It is such a great idea to be able to cook up whatever you want nearly wherever. We have seen people laying out high teas complete with champagne and several tiered cake trays, hot plates with kettles and a ‘civilized’ spread that would challenge most high-end dinners out. These folks know how to enjoy the out-of-doors!

We start our second pet sit with three dogs in North Brisbane while completing our second stay with the kitties near the Gold Coast. It was a sight for sore eyes to have hot water, wifi, a couch and rooms that one could shut by themselves and be alone for at least a bit. Again, loving our connection with Trusted Housesitters.

Keep tuned as we head into the last third of our time in Australia and prepare for Bali. We hope to create a birthday to remember for Canyon. He’ll be a decade old!

Kelvin bravely feeding the Lorakeets in Forest Glen

Boys playing dream chess ala Harry Potter?

Our humble home in the woods.

Room with view at Hervey Bay

Boys enjoying the sunset at 1770

Actually finding a Koala in a tree on the side of the road.

Dinner time at Rainbow Beach!

The introverts in the quiet carriage in Brisbane.

Cosy sleeping arrangements or claustrophobic. You decide.

Sunrise at Rainbow Beach

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