Not Your Ordinary Date Night

An angel of mercy volunteered to watch the boys Friday night, which left the mister and I wondering what to do with our first night out in this wild city. Where would you begin?

We decided to walk the fine line between good and, er, the other stuff and hopped a Tuk-Tuk to the Patpong night market. Beer and street food were plentiful and cheap, so we strolled and ate, strolled and drank and as usual were surprised several times along the way.

We took one break at the farang oasis "Happy Beer Garden" and the mister made a new friend.

And as we walked through the market we were repeatedly offered a menu, of which the first few items completely boggled me-I never got past items one and two: ping pong, and shoot the balloon. The rest was probably even more confounding, but I never read that far down. Please DO NOT even try to enlighten me, I'd rather not think about it anymore!

We also walked down some roads with even shadier storefronts, advertising other sorts of entertainment, but like the ping pong, I'm sure their 'karaoke' wasn't the kind I was thinking of.

The night market was full of garbage and trinkets, but so colorful and vibrant that it was worth the trip. And after we were tired of the beer and walking, we stopped in a massage shop for the much-deserved Thai foot massage, at about 10 bucks for the two of us. Absolutely incredible.

Naughty street...shhhhhhh

Happy Beer Garden! All farang welcome!

Street food goooood.

Can we keep her?

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful to be living in this amazing place. And I'm eversothankful for our dreams coming true.

Though Little P feels quite differently.

Exhibit A:

I Held My Breath

I must be honest, there have been some unpleasant moments over the past few weeks. Be it the sighting of a monstrous cockroach on the side street, or having to realize that the quality of food here has ABSOLUTELY no correlation to the outward appearance of a restaurant. Or trying to accomplish anything online and getting stuck on finding the "translate" button.

It's certainly not all champagne and roses between Bangkok and me when it comes to safety precautions. I mean, smiling at a toddler, good. Smiling at a toddler who is sitting behind the handlebars of a motorbike, not good. In the US we have a whole show dedicated to people who step in when they see someone in trouble. Ever hear of "What Would You Do?" We used to watch it all the time, expounding with every scenario whether we would intervene or butt out. Well, this is the real world, not TV. And when you witness child endangerment, it is NOT a time to make a fuss. You smile. And KEEP WALKING.

And when you see painters leaning over the edge of a ten story building without safety harnesses, you just wait and watch. (in case someone needs an ambulance of course")

The real heart-stopping moment came when two of the painters eased backward down the two ropes. Again, no harnesses. They walked down the wall to sit on these two seats, so they could paint the areas that couldn't be reached by leaning precariously over the top. Scary.

The Spirit House

I read somewhere that Bangkok is an entirely modern city, yet one that will never lose its cultural identity. A great example of this are the spirit houses that one finds outside every other building. Our temporary housing is located in a block containing upscale hotels and high-end shopping malls, yet outside each chi-chi boutique hotel stands a dias with one of these.
Phra plum is the lucky spirit these are devoted to, and should you wish to bless your workers and guests with good luck, you place one outside for him to inhabit. Then you place figurines of men and women, dancers and animals, etc inside and all around so the spirit is entertained and pleased. People also leave offerings of all kinds, like lighting incense or candles, flowers, food, and drinks. I've seen bottles of water and fruit placed there. Pretty interesting, and it just adds to the personality of Bangkok for me.

Great Lumpini Lizards!

So, with Day One behind us, we were battling some serious jet lag and I am sure our judgement was seriously impaired. Which would explain why we decided on Day Two to visit Lumpini Park and then walk all the way to the Chao Phraya River. No sweat, right?

The boys loved the playground at the park, and I was totally charmed by this open space, smack in the middle of the city. I mean, there were people running, practicing tai chi and about three other forms of martial arts, and in all these little picnic areas people were gathering to eat and talk. There was a group of four ladies singing under the shade of one umbrella. One man walked away from his friends to ask us about ourselves, and explain to us that he and his friends met here every morning to talk, listen to music and eat together. Again, people in BKK are so pleasant.

And then we spotted the lizards. And there were a lot of them. And they were big. informed me that they are carnivorous, eat most small critters, but have some mighty claws and teeth. And according to the news, one fell out of a tree right on to a woman in this very park not long ago. Yes. They climb trees. It makes me shudder.

The kids were fascinated and wanted to get up close of course. As most kids would do, right? Right. So this is another plus for Bangkok: fascinating critters in the park. And don't get me started on the snake issues I had to learn about today. A gem of advice "don't keep any empty pots or containers hanging around the yard or house" because Bangkok has lots of snakes. And of course they're pretty much all poisonous. Noooooo problem. I'm cool with that.

The First Day in Bangkok

I imagined something totally different. Not the Bangkok of "Hangover II" exactly, but something more like New York City if it were inhabited by southeast Asians. I thought we would arrive at the airport and be attacked by a dozen crazy taxi drivers trying to give us "the special tour" or something like that. I thought we would be pushed around and lost in an overwhelming city.

Silly me.

We were met by friends before even getting to baggage claim, and a charming and well-dressed expediter whisked us through the rest and helped us reclaim our puppydog, Myles. We settled into our temporary housing at 2am, yet we were stress-free.

The next morning we decided to venture out and get a feeling for the city, or at least the part of the city around us. I can tell you my assumptions and fears have been debunked. This city is amazing. The people speak softer. No one hollers or harangues you. They walk slower. And while everyone is courteous and respectful of your personal space, there are no rigid rules (stay to the right!) just a relaxed way of life. If you stand in one spot with a look of doubt on your face for longer than a second or two, someone will stop and try to help you. If it turns out you don't need help, they might chat with you anyways.

You are expected to barter over the difference of a dollar for your cab fare. But not angrily. Just for fun. And absolutely every exchange of conversation is injected with a subtle sense of humor. To not do so is considered rude. But of course, when you find everyone smiling at you or your children and greeting one another pleasantly, I can't imagine having a bad day. Unless I just don't go out at all.

But what would be the fun in that?

Ready To Launch

So here we are.
Its time to say goodbye.

The good times we've had.
The great friends we've made.

The things we have learned. Oh, the things we have learned!

I wish you all well, and hope we meet again! You are always welcome in our home, wherever we are. But now its time to pack up and go. Our adventures take us to amazing Bangkok, and next time you see me on here, I'm going to have so much to share! Stay tuned...Ciao ciao ciao!!!

If You Ask Me

You might think I took easily to the foreign service life. That moving from city to city is as easy as changing my haircolor. You may think I enjoy it 100%. Because that is what I always tell you.

What you need to know is that in most things I am a terrible liar, but in faking self-assurance I am very very good.

I am afraid people will say I have regrets, or that I am wavering about our decision to be in the foreign service, if I am honest about my fears. Its a conclusion easily jumped to. Especially if you don't know, as I do, what wonders are awaiting us on the other side. So I totally understand.

So if you ask me how I feel about packing up everything and moving to Bangkok next week, I would tell you I am excited. That there is nothing to be stressed about-this is the 'land of smiles' after all, and you can find anything you need there. But I am going to be honest right here, for all the world, friends or not, to see. I am scared as hell.

If you ask me how I feel about moving away from all the friends we have made here, I would tell you how much I am looking forward to making new friends. That I love getting to know people. That is 100% true. But I'm leaving quite a bit out.  I worry about getting to know a whole new group of people. I worry that I won't find my niche at all. I'm worried that 'shy Heather' will come back in a vengeance, and my rotten people skills will sabotage me. And that it is very daunting to face a whole new community and start all over again from square one.

If you ask me how I think the kids are going to handle it, I would tell you they are going to have a blast. That they will be too busy to get nervous, or homesick, or sad. That's a bit of a fib. Since we have to move TWO times in the next month, it's going to be hard on them. They will have a shaky routine, if any at all. They're going to act out. Backstep. And yes, they are going to get homesick. But from now on, its going to be a lot for us all to handle, so we shall not speak of it publicly again.

So now you know.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Yesterday, after saying goodbye to more family, we were in desperate need of a distraction so we ventured over to Roosevelt Island. Part memorial, part nature preserve, its a bit of an oddity, just steps away from Key Bridge and practically bumping into busy Georgetown. On one side, two paddle boarders were enjoying the calm waters. On the other, traffic, sirens, and tourists.

After we crossed a bridge onto the island, we let the boys loose to run and explore. The sun was out, the air was cool, and all the normal people were at work. It felt like we had the place almost to ourselves.

The monument was beautiful. And was absolutely surreal, given that it was in the middle of this wooded park/island, and the reflecting pools that encircled it were totally dry.

Kind of spooky, but I liked it.

Myles was thrilled to be with us too. Very vigilant throughout our hike, yet he still didn't notice the deer we walked by.

The kids were hard to hush on the swamp path, as they loved racing down the raised trail. But we spotted herons, turtles, spectacular dragonflies and butterflies.

These trees were a bit shocking, and made me a bit sad. I know its just sweet and sentimental, but these two trees were carved up pretty badly.