visa run

our current visas require that we leave thailand every 90 days. and before you start thinking, “oh, my goodness. i can’t believe they’ve been there 90 days already” just know – we haven’t. we still have a few weeks, but today is the only day we could all clear our schedules to go. so, bright and early this morning we set out to cross the border into burma (it’s officially the union of myanmar). we hired a minibus and driver to get us there and it took us about 4 hours. that’s with bathroom breaks and some pretty rough road – mostly issues with construction, resurfacing and the like. our first bathroom break was at a resort and restaurant that was created to provide financial support for the population and community development association.

img_1998.jpg

this establishment has set some pretty high standards for their food prep – and i now have all new worries about dining out.

img_2002.jpg

our driver dropped us off in mae sai, thailand – maybe 50 yards 45.72 meters from the border.

img_2003.jpg

while having our passports checked i happened to look up and notice the clocks. the time in burma/myanmar is 1/2 an hour behind the time in thailand. i wish i’d taken a picture of it, but i didn’t. i was too preoccupied with the dangers of border crossing. and i was all preoccupied over nothing. it reminded me of another border crossing experience i’d had.

when i was 15, the orchestra at my high school made a trip to the 1986 (don’t stop reading to tax your brain trying to figure out my age, i’ll do the math for you. i’m 37) world expo in vancouver, canada. we flew from dallas, texas to seattle, washington – which in and of itself was huge for me. (i’d only flown one other time and that was from dallas to houston on a southwest airlines peanut plane.) in seattle we boarded a bus and headed for the border. the entire drive i was nervous, like sweating buckets nervous. we got to the border and were stopped by guards. who boarded our bus – just like i knew they would. and then they got off the bus and waved us through. and that was it. i was so let down. i’d expected so much more. i’d expected guns waving and people yelling at us in a foreign language (you know, canadian english.) i’d expected our luggage to get tossed. i’d been holding my birth certificate tightly in my clenched fist – so i could produce it as soon as the nozzle of some high powered automatic rifle was waved in my face. but none of that happened. the weren’t at all interested in a high school orchestra from dallas, texas. but we did stay on a cruise ship. you know, just in case those canadians decided we were dangerous and we needed to make a quick get away. (yes, i did believe that story then and now you’re not gonna convince me other wise.)

anyway, back to this border crossing. after our passports were checked we crossed into myanmar/burma.

img_2005.jpg

where they took pictures of us, we paid them and they kept our passports for processing. and we proceeded on to tachilek, burma/mayanmar to do a little shopping. then we returned and picked up our passports and reentered thailand.

img_2008.jpg

on our way home, we noticed several fires. in an effort to improve air quality it is now illegal to burn in thailand, but it is part of their culture and old habits die hard.

fires.jpg

i could have taken this exact picture a dozen times on our way home. the smoke was heavy and the stink was strong. we can see the smoke from our house and the haze in our area is awful. and at times the smell is almost unbearable. i hear it gets better once the rainy season comes and that this year is nothing compared to last. which makes me thankful i didn’t experience it.

monday, is it over yet?

today started bright and early with parent/teacher conferences for s8 and a11. which means the kids were out of school, but bh and i had to go. so off we went.

we met with s8’s teacher first. he’s doing okay academically, but is a poor citizen. he’s rude to her and his classmates. he seems angry and he’s still having difficulty adjusting. and, as his mom, i so wanted to make excuses for him. but i couldn’t. i’m pretty sure they would have fallen flat. because the truth is he’s just not all that happy. i mean he has days that are great, but far more of them are not so great. and i’m not really sure it’s improving for him. so i sat with his teacher – and in all fairness to her she was wonderful, she fully understands how difficult this is and how he’s never been the new kid before – and i listened and tried not to cry. sat there and wondered what have we done? how have we damaged our son?

next up was a11’s teacher. an equally wonderful teacher. very understanding about our move and adjustment and all that goes with it, but… a11 isn’t doing well either. she’s withdrawn and really somewhat cold to her fellow students. the other girls in her class have given up on trying to be friends with her and now a11 has an uphill battle trying to make friends with them. and she’s become very unsure of herself. in the last year she has made some great strides in her self confidence levels, really come out of her shell. and now she seems to have completely regressed. so for the second time in an hour i’m absolutely certain we have damaged our kids.

also on the agenda today was a birthday party for c13, harp lesson for a11 and a school project work session for a11. i got c13 to the birthday party on time and got lost on my way home. which made us late for harp lessons. which made us late for the school project work session. we ended up getting home in time for me to make dinner and then head off to get c13 from his birthday party. and, of course, i got lost on my way to get him. and so you don’t think i’m a total loser – the pick up place wasn’t the same as the drop off place. it took me an hour and a half to find where i was supposed to be. turns out it’s only about 10 minutes from our house. so i was very late getting him. when i do get him he mentions that he left the change of clothes he was supposed to take to the party in the song thaeuw they had ridden in to get from the first location to the second. which might not be such a big deal if it hadn’t been one of the four pair jeans he owns. and since he will only wear jeans at this time – his thing, not ours – that leaves him 3 pairs and one of those three has a nice rip in the upper inner thigh (also known as the crotch). and then he says to the birthday girl, “the gift i got you got all wet, so i’ll have to get you another.” (they’d had a water balloon fight, thus the need for a change of clothes.) it was a gift voucher to swenson’s. not like we could take it back. so i gave it to her mother so she could lay it out flat and then they would be usable.

and now i’m home. working on a to-do list for tomorrow. it only has two things on it. one is go to cooking class, which i’m very much looking forward to. the other is call the counseling center and make appointments for our whole maladjusted family… we need help and it’s available so we’re gonna get it. i have no doubt that they are going to tell me that what we’re going through is normal, that it will all be okay and i’m hoping that they will give us all some tools to help us get through this and thrive here, i’m sure that they will.

how do we get this thing home

so, with flights corrected, they were on their way. i dropped them off at the airport right after we dropped the boys off at school. i hung around until they were checked in for their flight – i wanted to be sure my corrected flight plans took – and then they were gone.

img_1422.jpg
mom, that pics for you. that’s the size of plane they fly between bangkok and chiang mai.

i’m slightly jealous because i know that this will be a trip a11 will remember forever, but those are good memories to have with her daddy. they get to bangkok and head straight to the harp center centre, getting there about noon.

img_1424.jpg

and now we come to another part of the trip i was responsible for – finding out the hours of operation for the harp center centre. and i did, the hours are wed – sat 10a – 7p. they got there at noon on wed. should have been fine.

img_1423.jpg

that’s a pic of a11 staring at the locked door. because it’s closed, as in not open. which the gentleman who came around from the side communicated to them. but he did point them to the harp school. which is right around the corner. and guess what?!? it was closed. luckily, bh has a very keen eye and while peeking in the windows he noticed someone in the school and managed to get their attention. they were able to help. and a11 tried out the harp and was pleased.

img_1425.jpg img_1428.jpg

and every one agreed she is the best harpist evah. but we knew that already. so they paid for the harp and made arrangements to meet back at the harp store at 5p. allowing the very nice people at the harp center centre to wrap the harp up and get it flight ready, since the plan was to take it as over-sized luggage on the flight home. bh has an appointment to make so they head that way. the appointment goes well and they still have some free time. so it’s off to starbucks.

img_1430.jpg

and then to toys r us – you know since they were there and all.

img_1437.jpg

and while at toys r us they happened to come across ken’s new friend

img_1438.jpg

why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-get-the-milk-for-free barbie. thankfully, they did not bring her home. i mean we do have a teen boy in the house.

then they returned to the harp center centre. where the harp and their ride were ready and waiting for them. there was just one itty bitty problem. the harp people weren’t convinced that the airlines would allow the harp to be carried on as over-sized luggage. so they called the airlines. much speaking of thai happened and eventually they were sent on their way – with the harp.

img_1455.jpg img_1460.jpg

hmmm… perhaps the size of that box was the cause of the concern about taking it as over-sized luggage. these two nice gentleman load the harp, a11 and bh and head to suvarnabhumi airport. once their they discover that it’s a no go, it’s too close to the flight time. so much rearranging is done and another flight is scheduled, but it’s at don mueang airport – which is not so conveniently located on the other side of town. so, it’s back in the van for a not so very quick jaunt across town. they are arrive with plenty of time. get the harp unloaded and now it’s time for security. where a valiant effort is made to put the box containing the harp through the baggage x-ray machine.

img_1461.jpg

but surprise, surprise it doesn’t fit. the only option is to open the box and look for bombs. but what they find in the box is, well, they aren’t really sure. so they call for back up. and end up with 11 security people – and a11 – all standing around the open box peering in at a well packed harp. and it must have passed muster because they send it off into the special holding area for things they-aren’t-really-quite-sure-exactly-what-they-are-but-have-been- deemed-safe-for-flight.

img_1462.jpg

and now we come to my last responsibility picking up bh, a11 and the harp from the airport. s8, c13 and i get to the airport right on time and manage to get the best parking spot at the airport. we go in to wait. the flight is delayed. now, no one has communicated anything to me, so we’re there to pick them up at their original flight time. and just about the time the plane should be landing the phone rings – it’s a11. she says they’re at a restaurant. at the airport. in bangkok. i’m pretty sure she’s joshing so i ask to speak to her father. and he confirms that they are, in fact, at a restaurant. at the airport. in bangkok. we talk, figure out the harp won’t fit in our car anyway – someone might have suggested that days ago – and decide a taxi cab minivan is the way for them to go. i stop and make arrangements for the cab at the cab stand and head home with the boys. at 11p i get a phone call from bh – no taxi, no hope of a taxi. but one of the guys who works at the airport happens to drive a song theauw and is more than happy to give them a ride home. for a price, of course. so into the song theauw they go and by now it’s late. and they’re tired.

img_1473.jpg

once they are home it is imperative that the harp is unpacked, to check for damage.

img_1481.jpg img_1483.jpg img_1484.jpg img_1487.jpg img_1493.jpg img_1502.jpg

and just how big was that box?

img_1497.jpg

huge.

a11’s harp teacher came by this evening to tune the harp for us and set up a time for lessons. have i mentioned that her teacher plays for the queen? how cool is that?

so, what have we been up to

other than learning to drive…

so thursday night we get a text message from the lovely folks at the office here in chiang mai – we had spoken with them earlier in the day about arrangements we needed to make for friday and they had a solution. they arranged for us to rent a car so i could drive c13 to school to meet with the high school advisor and arrange his schedule. meanwhile, they would send a truck to the hotel to pick up bh, a11, s8 and all our luggage. sounds great? well, after i familiarized myself with a manual, drove around the round about the wrong way, stalled out a few times, i was ready to go – the only thing left was convincing c13 to get in the car with me. once we were off it took us 90 minutes to get to the school; it should have been a 20 minute trip – but we saw some things i hope to be able to find again. then we had to get from the school to our house. luckily, the office manager at CMIS knows just where our moo baan (neighborhood) is. and when we got to the house most of the unpacking had been done!! yeah, bh, a11 & s8! next to do was find something to eat. so we journeyed out – found a super store with a kfc. and look what they had –

img_0381_opt.jpg

and, of course, we had to do some shopping. but it’s hard to figure out where to start when you have nothing! so, we started with some basic necessities. dishes, a pot and a pan, silverware. a clothes washer!! saturday and sunday were spent setting up house, finding where to get other furniture. stuff that works for us, but doesn’t cost a fortune. and the one thing i really, really wanted to find – a round dinner table – we found yesterday!

other highlights of the last few days… when you don’t inform your credit card company that you’ve left the country they shut you down. when you make purchases you should remember that you no longer drive a minivan, but are currently renting a small passenger van. if here’s what happens if you don’t remember… (and don’t worry, the kids really could breath and they are all still alive) –

bean-bag-kids_opt.jpg

this morning i was highjacked by motorcycle riders and couldn’t get into the lane i needed to be in so took the long unknown way to the kids’ school. and now i sit in a coffee shop – which is a little weird because it wasn’t too long ago that i read about this very coffee shop here – writing this blog, wondering what normal will be like here.

forward motion

today was pretty productive… bh got here from singapore – made everyone very, very happy. we all went to the school and the kids took their tests. we are know renters of one house in chiang mai – yea, a place to call home. and right now, bh is at the hospital getting a physical – he has to have it for his visa. i’ve no doubt it will be done in a jiffy! compared to what has been done since we’ve gotten here, that’s a ton! i thought today would be as good a day as any to revisit that pesky old to do list. the list of all the stuff that needed to be done before we moved.

  1. get passports for me, tb, lb and ff.
  2. visas
  3. figure out what to take and what not to take.
  4. sell a bunch of our stuff.
  5. find homes for the dogs. (we’ve got three, anyone want one?
  6. get the house ready to sell – again. (it should be easier this time. okay, so our friends are doing this for us as we speak…
  7. find a realtor.
  8. sell the house.
  9. get answers to our questions.
  10. find a school for the kids.
  11. find a place to live.
  12. pack.
  13. spend countless hours on the internet researching things i’m not sure about.

okay, that feels good, really, really good! and soon i can return to my normal blogging self – pictures and wit included!!

i don’t have time for this…

if you’re thinking it’s blogging, she doesn’t have time for blogging. you’re right – but that’s not what i’m talking about. what i’m talking about when i say i don’t have time for this is found in the following tale.

we have nothing in the house for the kids to take for lunch – at least nothing proper. we could send pudding, lots of pudding, and a frozen pork loin, but as other moms know, sometimes it’s all about appearances. so, i have to go to the grocery store. now, i’ll admit, i’m a bit out of it, somewhat distracted. and when the man chased me down to tell me i had hit his truck with my door. i figured i guess i could have. so i follow him out to his now damaged truck to see just what i’ve done. and i see nothing. not.a.ding. but because i’m in a hurry and frazzled and now broken i say whatever and give him all my info. and call bh. so off i go to get what i came to the store for. as i’m checking out bh calls back and says i should get a picture of it, you know in case this guy turns out to be not so honest for documentation. i leave the store, go out and the guy is still sitting in his truck. i open my car door as far as it will go flip open my cell phone to take a high quality picture and guess what… yep, you got it, my door doesn’t stretch that far. now, since i can’t download the pic off my phone, i’ve substituted the next best thing. let’s pretend that winey’s five yr old monster, bubba, drew this picture.

img_0106_opt.jpg

see, this is definitive proof that that guy was not very nice. after he noticed me taking the picture, he gets out of his truck – if you’ll notice he drives a truck made by/for dodo – to find out what i’m doing. i tell him taking a picture. i was originally taking it for documentation of the massive damage i had caused, but now it was just proof that i didn’t do it!!! and not only that, i don’t have time for this! and for those of you who can see the damage – bubba only put that x there and labeled it ding because that’s where the nice man kept insisting it was.

but on an up note, one of my tasks for the day was to locate luggage and look what i found…

img_0103_opt.jpg

and now, i must get busy. cuz bh made me a to do list. and i’m not even gonna depress you with a picture of it.