seven years

Seven years ago today the kids and I arrived in Chiang Mai and began fumbling our way through the ins and outs of living here.  The only thing that is still the same as that day is that we are still pretty much fumbling our way through.

So what are we all up to now?  Chan is 20 and living in America, he’s taking a semester off from college and working.  We’ll see where that leads.  Aly has just started her last semester of high school, she’s applying to colleges and trying to decide just where it is she wants to go.  She’s trying to decide between Japan and the U.S. – that’s a big decision to make at 18.  Sam is now 15.  He’s currently studying for his G.E.D.  We’re still investigating how to make that happen.  He goes to school for Drama and is enjoying that very much.  Michael’s still working for Compassion, that’s who we moved here with 7 years ago.  He still travels a great deal, but maybe it’s slowing down a bit for the time being.  He’s also finishing up his Master’s Degree.  He’s worked hard to keep all those balls in the air and he’s done a great job.  I’m still rehabbing from my hip surgery.  Things are coming along, but it’s slow going.  I’m coaching CrossFit classes and have even been able to do some of the workouts.  That’s progress!  I’m currently working to lose my rehab weight.  Rehab eating was lots of fun, but the pounds I gained aren’t helping my hip.  I’m doing a Whole30. I’m almost half way through my 30 days and am seeing positive results.  If you’re interested I’ve started another blog keeping tabs on what I’m eating and what I’m doing during these 30 days.  I’m not sure if I’ll continue it past the 30 days, but we’ll see.

What does the future hold?  We’re not sure.  We know we’ll be back in the U.S. this summer for a few weeks, but we don’t have any plans to move back.  It’s kind of the same time line we’ve had since we moved here, we just don’t know.

Seven years has passed crazy fast.  We fumble through fewer things, but also find more things to fumble through.  I think that might be a never ending struggle.

2009

2009

2011

2011

2013

2013

2013

2015

the beginning of the end of an era

today is the first day aly’s last year of high school.  and – if no one in my family changes their mind – it’s also the first day of our family’s last year of traditional school.  i’m finding dealing with both has me feeling all kerfuffle-y.  it hasn’t been all that long since chan went through his last year of high school and i still remember how raw it was.  how all year long the coming change felt so close to the surface.  i’m trying to not protect myself from those feelings this year.  i want to fully experience this whole year with aly (appropriately, of course, i have no plans to go to prom).  i don’t want to fall into a been there done that attitude, either.  this is her experience and while it will have its similarities to chan’s it won’t be the same at all.

aly

at the end of the last first day of high school.

she and michael were in the states this summer and she toured college campuses.  she even found one she wants to apply to.  she also wants to apply to a college in japan.  so much change to come.  so little time to savor and no way to stop the clock.  i wouldn’t really want to.  she’s gonna have an awesome year.

along with her last year of school is our family’s decision to not send sam back to school this year.  over the past few years it has become more and more apparent that traditional school is not the best for sam.  we’re taking the road less traveled (so to speak).  he’ll come out of it with a high school certification and he won’t be shutting any doors he might want to walk through in the future, but for his well being – and the well being of our family – this is the best path we can find.  we are very thankful that the school will allow him to audit drama this year and that they have left the door open should he decide the classroom really is where he wants to be.  it’s scary for me.  i’m a rule follower and this isn’t how high school is supposed to be done.  (this is a little funny because we homeschooled our oldest two for several years, and that’s not how elementary school is supposed to be done.  even better?  it was my choice to do it.)  i also think it’s good that we live abroad as we are making this decision.  not that there aren’t plenty of people who support homeschooling in the states (i think that’s what you would consider what we are doing).  at this age it feels like it’s more sam schooling with a some parental oversight.  many of the non-american westerners around us have been very encouraging of our decision.  they’ve told us it’s not uncommon in their countries for how a kid is educated to change at this age.  it seems only us americans have a one size fits all attitude when it comes to education.

so big changes ahead for us and i’m just holding on to the knowledge that we’ll come out okay on the other side of all this.

alive and mostly well

we made it to america and i still have a japan wrap up post to write, but it has pictures to go along with it and right now photos are proving to be a bit of a challenge.

one of the first things we did after finally arriving in colorado was drop off my laptop at the mac store. and they couldn’t fix it so it had to be sent out and is not due to return for another day or two (or three). i am now limited to an ipad and they aren’t so friendly with the pictures.

speaking of colorado – they should totally change their state motto to “the land that lacks moisture and oxygen” (or something witty like that). also, almost immediately upon landing i was struck ill. i was convinced i’d brought back some tropical japanese type disease, but have changed theories now and am pretty sure it’s just allergies. jet-lag plus allergy fuzzy headedness equals misery and also has the added bonus of making one a pretty lack luster contributor to any social situation. unless the social situation is improved by the presence of nasty flem-y coughing.

sumida-ku

you know how way-back-when when someone had their vacation pictures processed and then forced you to look through them all? that might be what my tokyo posts turn into.

the goals for today’s outing where the tokyo sky tree and ended up with a bonus – the world beer museum.  we started with competently managing the trains – well, mostly competently.  we also learned that if 5 white folks stand in front of the train map looking lost some kind person will step up to help.  thanks kind people.

  

michael was in charge of today’s itinerary and i didn’t study it too closely.  the only real goal we had for today was the tokyo sky tree.  michael knew he wanted to go to the world beer museum at some point, but we hadn’t connected the dots, yet, so we weren’t aware that they were at the same location until we were at said location.

we started with the beer museum – well, we actually started out getting our tickets for the sky tree and then ended up with a three hour wait and since we had empty bellies lunch was where we started.

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after lunch we still had some time to kill so we wandered the mall and took advantage of several photo ops.

   

then the tree.  the sky tree.

the first stop was 350m.

then we headed up to 451.2m.

the pictures from that high looked surprisingly similar to the ones from the level below – i can’t tell which are which.  but we did find a mirror.

after the sky tree we were all exhausted.  we picked up dinner to go and headed home.  we took the long way to the nearest train station.  or rather the second nearest, the nearest didn’t have a train going the direction we needed it to go in.  but while we were wandering we did come across two separate bicycle parking lots.  bikes seem as big here as motorbikes in chiang mai.

we also got a cool view of the tokyo sky tree.  i bet the view from up there at night is amazing.

we made it back to the apartment and tucked in for dinner.  what did we eat?  pork cutlet sandwiches.  they were on a must eat while you’re in tokyo list that google showed me, so when i saw that we could get them at the mall (the brand google recommended no less) we went for it.  they were good.  i’d put them in the comfort food category.  and there’s no shame in being comfort food.

  

    

yoyogi park

tokyo – day one.  (i’ve done the planning for this vacation with the help of the many people who have taken the time to rate must see attractions in tokyo.)  today we started with yoyogi park.  getting a late start (it was after 12:00 by the time everyone got up and dressed) wasn’t the best for being able to fully enjoy the goings on at yoyogi park, but we still had a great time.

we started our trip out hungry so first order of business was finding lunch.  which meant a walk out of our neighborhood for a little exploring.  right off the bat we came across a picture of tommy lee jones hawking canned coffee.  who knew?

then we found a mirror.

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we walked down ninja alley – that’s not an official name, but since we know we are staying in the ninja district michael’s certain this is where they did their ninja stuff.  just like michael.

a restaurant.  where we had to point and pray that the pictures were a good representation for what we ordered.

not one complaint – everyone left happy and full.  right now we’re all in agreement that japanese food rocks.

 

dr. pepper in japan – what the what??

  

we tackled the train system next.  i didn’t get any pictures of our struggles doing this.  it wasn’t overly difficult, but the language barrier was noticeable and it took a lot of focus to make sure we got headed the right direction.  but once we got where we were headed we came out of the station to see takeshita street and lots of people – including these gals who seemed to be just hanging out.

and then we got lost.  so we did lots of walking.  and this drove by us – i had no idea what they were but the guys got very excited.  from what i could gather from what the boys were saying is that they’re like life size rock ’em sock ’em robots.  i can see that they could be pretty cool.

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chan decided to see if he could help.  he took the map and had a seat – a wet seat.  he was a big help – laughter always lightens the mood.

eventually we found yoyogi park.  where we were greeted by some very friendly folks.  we grabbed a few free hugs and high fives, but they were so fast we didn’t get any pictures.

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finally we headed into the park.

it was beautiful.  and cool.  but not too cold.  just right.  there were fish to look at and turtles to watch.

and some not so fancy potties with worrisome signs.

barrels of sake wrapped in straw.  you can read about it if you want.

casks of wine for consecration.

and incredibly we came across the travelocity gnome.

it’s a little known fact that gnomes take all the get-up-and-go out of you.

eventually we did get up and go again.  and – amazingly – we found another mirror.

we finished at the park and headed out for the two other things on my list that we had to do while we were in this part of tokyo.  one was find the hachikō statue.

go us!  and the other was see shibuya crossing.  conveniently, that’s where the hachikō statue is located.

we were all exhausted and hungry so we ate at mcdonald’s.  that was chan’s choice.  he says you’re supposed to try mcdonald’s everywhere you go.  it’s some kind of travel law – or something.  i don’t know what i ordered, but it was pretty good.  everyone else ordered what they would have at any other mcdonald’s and they said it was better than they’d had before.  the only thing i’m certain of is that this extablishment had the best  fancy japan potty i’ve ever experienced at a mcdonald’s.

the button that looks like it plays music doesn’t really.  it plays toilet flushing sounds.  my guess is for discretion.

movin’ on

“maybe it’s human nature to think one’s own situation is the unique and incomparable one, the transcendent exception.”  ~ sue monk kidd the mermaid chair

chan and i left chiang mai yesterday and the goodbyes at the airport were a validation that our decision to move here was a good one.  it was emotional and so very painful, but also proof of how he threw himself into life here.

knowing we’re not the first to make this journey doesn’t make it any easier.  but it is helpful to know others have survived it, their kids have flourished, and it’s all been worth it.  i can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for chan and i hope he takes on university life the same way he’s done it here.  but before we tackle the next few years we’ve got a week in tokyo to take on.  (it was on the flight from bangkok to tokyo that i came across that quote from sue monk kidd.)

we seem to like to take the not the easiest way possible route when it comes to travel when we go to and from the states and why would we choose to do it differently for a family vacation.  michael, a16, and s13 left friday night for bangkok and had an all night layover before heading to tokyo – via kuala lumpur.  maybe not the most direct route, but to hear them tell it it was up there with one of the most miserable.  chan and i left chiang mai saturday morning (16 hours after the other guys) we flew to bangkok had a two hour layover and then headed to tokyo.  directly to tokyo.

they took the yellow route. we took the purple one.

we arrived 1/2 an hour before them and our first stop was the fancy japan potties.

after our pit stop we went got our passports stamped and then on to collect our luggage.  since we were ahead of the rest of the family we went ahead and gathered their luggage, too.  they made it in, we all went through customs and then it was time to figure out how to go about finding the apartment we’d rented for the week.  luckily we had an address in japanese and our taxi driver could read japanese (amazing, i know.)  our two bedroom apartment was bigger than we expected.  it has a washing machine.  and best of all it’s vey own fancy toilet.

it was well past midnight at this point and we had 3 hungry kids on our hands.  so michael and i braved it and found a convenience store where we picked up some assorted snacks.  including the goldilocks and the three bear version of cup noodle.

we were all asleep by 3am.  that’s way past my bedtime and we ended up sleeping a tad late on Sunday morning.  which was alright, because i’d purposely left sunday as a pretty easy tourist day.

and now the catch up begins

no worries, i’m not gonna try to catch you guys up too much, but you might ought to prepare yourself for the next few posts to be about the mostly recent past – starting as recent as this past weekend…

michael was invited to train a course in muak lek, thailand.  the folks who invited him were kind enough to invite the rest of the family along, too.  c19 had other, more pressing, senior-y type things to do, but a16, s13, and i were game for a weekend at a resort and 24/7 air con.  the other thing we were all looking forward to was picking up krispy kreme donuts while we were at the don muang airport in bangkok – i’ll get back to that.

we flew into DMK – that’s don muang airport.  and were picked up and given a ride to muak lek – a few hours outside of bangkok.  we arrived after the dining room was closed.  but not to be starved we headed out to find some dinner and lucked into a little mookata restaurant – a thai bbq place where you’re in charge of your own grill.

after dinner we checked into our rooms (wish i’d taken a picture, we had a very nice 2 bedroom/2 bathroom with a living room cabin).  we quickly (there might have been a little drama) divided up boys’ room and girls’ room.  turns out brothers and sisters – when they are a 16 year old girl and 14 year old boy – aren’t so keen on room sharing.

michael had to be up bright and early to start teaching, but the rest of us slept in, then breakfast and an entire day of nothing.  i had a little work to do and some reading i wanted to catch up and some air-con i just wanted to soak up.  so it was sort of a day of nothing.

on sunday we got up, headed to worship and then the kids and i ventured out to chet saonoi waterfall.  it was nice and cool and very pretty.

Imagewe hiked around for a bit and then headed out to what see what google said muak lek was famous for – the milky way.  there are a lot of dairies.  big ones.  and farm chokchai is all set up for tourists.

2013-05-05 11.07.30the kids fed calves.  they had ice cream shakes.  really, really good ice cream shakes.  we felt a little guilty about eating burgers.  and we skipped the tour.  i was the only one really interested in it – it was 2.5 hours long and all in thai.  if we’d made prior arrangements english could have been arranged, but since my dairy thai isn’t all that good i figured the kids were right on this one.

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no matter how hard those helpful thai ladies pushed those cows wouldn’t move

and besides, i was coming down with a migraine.  and if you’re gonna have a migraine and take to the bed, it’s very, very nice to be able to do that in an air-conned room.

michael had to train a good bit of monday and then it was time to return to the airport.  michael was a little slow getting through security – he’d forgotten about the 8 pairs of scissors he had in his backpack.  but they were discovered and confiscated and then we were on our way.  we quickly located krispy kreme.  it was open.  and it was donut-less.  not one donut.  there was a little disappointment, but not too much.  everyone knows we’re only weeks away from the land of donuts.

we got home a little late on sunday night and kids returned to school on monday.

there was a little bit of melancholy on the trip as every so often someone found it necessary to comment on this trip for four being what next year would be like all the time.  (it’s possible i’ll work c19’s imminent departure into any posts between now and the day it happens.)