the trip home that will never end

michael should have gotten home this morning. but there were problems at d/fw with the plane. i mean, apparently there were not initially problems, because he boarded his american airlines’ flight on time. then sat. for 3 hours. and then got off, because they deboarded the plane (and i do think that is the correct technical term, if it’s not, it should be.) after having the privilege of dealing with a disgruntled american airlines employee he was booked onto the next available flight. and, when you’re flying internationally, the domino effect of one rescheduled flight makes for an incredible pain in the derrière. he was supposed to layover in bangkok last night, but ended up stuck in tokyo. which meant he missed his flight this morning from bangkok to chiang mai. but american airlines assured him this would be no problem. they even gave him an official certificate that said,

dear bff thai air,

we at american airlines take full responsibility for mr. michael’s delay. it is in no way his fault. it’s our fault. not his. ours. please allow him to board your plane.

kthxbye,

your bff,

american airlines

so, when michael finally makes it to bangkok, he confidently walks up to the thai air desk, hands them his official certificate and tries to book a flight home – for this evening. the ticket agent tells him both flights out this evening are booked. but he can fly standby, if he’d like. business class standby. and of course, he’ll have to buy another ticket. business class. “but, but, but,” he says, “i have this official certificate from american airlines, they assured me that you would gladly except it and give me a ticket with no problems.” and the ticket agent said, “yeah, whatever.” “we have no idea why american airlines would think that. you’ll have to buy a ticket to fly on our plane.” but first you have to wait to see if we can even get you on.

which is what he’s doing right now. waiting.

**update: since he was going to have to pay for his ticket anyway he went ahead and booked a flight on another airlines.  that had available seats.  coach.  he’ll be home this evening.  whew.

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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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and just how big was that box?

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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?

my bad

bh and a11 are heading to bangkok today to look at and hopefully get a harp. it was my job to book the flight. and about 10p last evening i remembered they were e-tickets and i needed to print them out. no biggie, until i print them out. today is march 12, the plan was to fly there and back on march 12.

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hmmm… surely i can fix this. i booked them online, i’ll just book more. so i do, and i get as far as entering passenger information when i get the message you must book 23 hours in advance. oops. but i refuse to give up now. i know, i’ll call thai airlines. but part of me is resigned to have failed at this task. i’m sure they won’t be open this late and even if they are they won’t speak english. i’m ready to call it quits. but wait, the phone is answered – by a machine, but it’s still answered. and there is the option to press 9 for english. praise God. i start to get a little panicky when i’m on hold for a long time, but i finally get through to someone with wonderful english, amazing english. i know, i need to learn thai. and she can book the tickets. and cancel the other reservations, even though they are nonrefundable – my bad. and she can answer questions about flying with oversized luggage – you know, like harp sized luggage. and i don’t have to explain to a11 why she is going to school instead of harp shopping. whew. that’s a relief. i sure wish i’d paid attention to get the number of the phone representative so i could write a glowing thank you that would get her a bonus or maybe a raise or maybe a promotion or possibly all three of those things. because she deserves it.

things that go bump on the tanon

as we were headed out today to run errands we came across this…

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(no one appeared to be hurt.) i’m guessing that the truck was probably loaded high with some sort of organic cargo (there appeared to be some leafy greens on the street) and it was attempting to make a u-turn (it was tumped over in the u-turn lane.) and because of the speed he was moving, the most likely precariously stacked cargo and the sharp angle at which he was attempting to take the u-turn some law of physics caused him to tump. i know, my sleuthing skills are astounding, not to mention i’m a physics whiz.

an hour or so later we’re headed to get the kids – i’m driving. i go to make a right turn – yes, i checked my side mirrors and my rear view mirror and, yes, i did signal – in my rear view mirror i see a guy on a motorcycle. i slow down and make my turn. well, when i slowed down the guy on the motorcycle thought he needed to pass me and even though i had my blinker on and even though i was partially in the lane of oncoming traffic – leaving plenty of room on my left, like a car could have passed me to the left – he thought it wise to pass me on the right. so, as i make my right turn i hear a yell and a bump, well, it was a little more than a bump, but i certainly wouldn’t call it a crash. i don’t know the proper i-was-just-bumped-into-by-a-motorbike-in-thailand etiquette, so i went with what i do know and that is move accidents out of the way of traffic. i finished my right turn, parked and started to get out of the car. the whole time thinking to myself, “how much is this gonna cost me?” well, really, i was only partly thinking that, cuz most of my brain was being used to try to stop the flow of tears so i wouldn’t appear to be a giant wuss. and then i noticed he’d gone on, hadn’t even stopped. i didn’t figure he’d been hurt, and i’m guessing his bike must not have been damaged. turns out the car was only marked with a smudge that will come off and a scrape that will for the most part buff out. i’m sure the motorbike guy went about his day with his tale of the crazy farang who plowed him down and i came home and went to sleep. and waited for the police to show up. which they haven’t. but for the rest of my life anytime the driveway bell rings instead of the obnoxious bing-bong i’ll hear, “bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

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stinky doesn’t even begin to describe them…

we slept 13 hours last night and are all still a little draggy today.  i took the kids to see the house, they all liked it.  s8 wanted his own balcony, like a11 and bh & me, but other than that all is good.  they were thrilled with the amenities – swimming pool, tennis courts, badmitton, etc…

the lost luggage is still lost… and we’re still waiting.  but it’s all part of it, right?  think pigpen from charlie brown – only without the little squigle stink marks and with a real stink instead.  but it is just the boys – a11 and i are great.

i think we’re all feeling somewhat overwhelmed.  a11 had a small break down at breakfast – i think some of the novelty is wearing off for the kids.  or maybe they didn’t ever feel it was at all novel.  but nothing like a few tears in a hotel restaurant.