Saturday, September 19, 2015

Summer updates

This has been embarrassing how long I have neglected my blog.  Especially since we live overseas and I have so many interesting and different things that I want to share.  Yet "normal" life takes over and I get busy with working and Millie has homework and we still need to figure out when to do laundry and cook dinner....  But I did want to share just a few of our photos from our month long trip to Germany this summer.  Millie charmed our flight attendant and she whisked Millie away for part of the trip, dressed her in part of the uniform and even got the co-pilot to come out and bring Millie upstairs to view first class on Emirates. (Millie had been very sick for most of the flight due to her flying anxiety, but we finally got her to smile when we landed.)
Hiking through the forest in Germany!
It was wonderful to be visiting Oma and Opa.  We definitely needed some adjusting to the unusually cool temperatures in June.
But then it warmed it and we spent many times visiting the lake just a short bike ride away from my mom's house.  I love Germany, because they always have beer and delicious food being served whether you are hiking in the middle of the forest or at a small lake in town, anywhere out and about...there is always good, quality hot cooked meals nearby. Mike and I would ride bicycles around through the corn fields and farms and all of a sudden come upon a small restaurant serving a nice, hearty meal!
Speaking of food, here we are at another restaurant in town.  This one became our favorite.  Mike had his infamous pork knuckles at this place.  Meat, beer, potatoes=heaven!
Europe, especially Germany, has the best bicycle paths I've ever seen.  You can get on a path anywhere and it seems to connect all over the country.  You can get anywhere so easily on a bike and never have to really go on the road. 
Millie even celebrated her 9th birthday in Germany.  Seems like a long time ago now.  Now it is September.  School started at CMIS way back in the beginning of August.  I am teaching first grade this year and so happy about that.  This year has been so much more rewarding. I love this grade.  Here I am on the first day when it was chaos and crowds, nervous parents, children and teachers.  Can you believe that we have been at school for 6 full weeks now!!!  I barely remember anything I did that first week. 

Millie on the first day meeting up with old friends. She is in fourth grade now. There are two classes for every grade.  She had 17 kids in her class. I am lucky and only have 14 in my first grade class.  That has been a dream!
But now we are ready to start the 7th week of school and are in the thick of our schedules and homework and staff meetings, etc.  But of course, we can't complain.  We still take time to explore Chiang Mai, go out with friends, shop for cool stuff, attempt to speak Thai (get laughed at a lot) and enjoy good Thai food.  PS-the dog is not ours, but is always over "visiting."  He is here making sure Millie gets her schoolwork done.  I will post more often.  Getting ready to take some photos of my classroom next. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Our home in Chiang Mai

I am long overdue for a new post on our blog, so this month I decided to post about our home.  We live in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I teach preschool (and in August I upgrade to my favorite level-first grade!) Everyday Millie and I ride our motorbike to school.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to travel the 3 miles to school in the morning and again in the afternoon.  (Yes, it's a lot of traffic and stop lights along the way and crazy drivers. )  Here is our car (that has no AC and is the opposite of a smooth, pleasant ride...) parked in front of our lovely home. 
We live on the corner of a dead end road, so there is not so much traffic going past our house.  They have been building a house down the road for 10 months now and are still not finished, but construction can be a slow process here.  They have also started to build a sidewalk along the small river at the end of this road.  That will be great to walk along in the evenings.
This is the view of the road when we get on our bikes to leave our moobaan (subdivision).  We have lots of little food and fruit stands around the corner along the main road, a lady selling rotee (think crepes with bananas and sweetened condensed milk poured all over it.  Delicious!), a swimming pool, big grocery store and a 7-Eleven (which is so much better than the ones in the US.  I love them here! That's where you can go to pay all your bills!)
Our calm and sheltered sitting area.  I spend many a morning here sipping coffee and reading a magazine.

Our "western" style kitchen.  Most Thai kitchens are outside and would never come with a oven!  Although at this point, I would love an outside kitchen for cooking. You can't imagine how this room heats up as you cook in temperatures already in the high 90s.  But this is a great addition to our house and in the cool season, I baked many a banana bread here. Mike even prepared a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner (with a roasted chicken vs. turkey, ham or goose....)
Other side of the kitchen looking towards the slider windows that lead to the dining/living room.
I am so happy with our living room.  We sit here to watch tv, read, drink (after a hard day at work) and play games.  Let me tell you, it does get hot.  I don't know any house here that has central AC, so most homes only have an AC unit in the bedrooms.  It can get quite hot sitting on our plush couch watching tv, but I have come to appreciate fans more than ever!
Mike pretending to be busy on the computer in our eating area. 
Front view of our living room.  Yeah for fans!
This is a third bedroom/office room.  It is the messiest room in the house since it also stores our luggage and the boxes of the items we have bought here. 
This is Millie's very cute room.  She spends lots of time on her Kindle here, drawing on her little Japanese desk on the floor there or playing with the many toys we brought from the U.S.  Thailand is still pretty cheap, but children's toys can be 10 times the price here.  Example-Lego set I saw on amazon for $23, the same one being sold here was going for $130.  Sadly, something to do with import tax. 
Our bedroom.
Yes, I even took a photo of our bathroom.  This is a very nice bathroom for being in Thailand.  It even comes with a bathtub which is quite rare. 
Our side yard where we like to play badminton, and admire our many orchids.  We have several mango trees in the yard too which I did not realize continually shed leaves all year long, so I get to rake here too.  That would be more fun in cooler weather, I believe. 
Finally, this is our front driveway to the house. We park our motorbikes and bicycles here.  The hammock is my relaxing area in the cooler seasons. Getting ready for taxes, I added up all our bills.  Although many items are expensive here in town, the food, clothes, markets and cost of living is still amazingly cheap.  We pay $5.93/month for our house phone. Our electric bill (averaging all the AC usage, etc) is still only about $62.28/month.  Our cable tv (40 channels or so with at least 12 in english) is $10.60/month.  Water is $5.82/month.  Our internet is $19 and rent is $363.63/month for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a nice yard.  We have only a few random geckos scurrying up the walls inside the house and we have just started battling ants, but it's under control and normal for life in Asia.  Our washing machine is kept outside in the back of the house and everyone I know, hangs up their laundry to dry on racks.   We are very happy in our home.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Yi Peng and Loy Kratong

At the end of October, we drove over to MaeJo University on our motorcycles for the annual Yi Peng festival.  The highlight of Yi Peng and Loy Kratong is the spellbinding show that happens when thousands of people join together to release khom loi (lit lanterns) into the night sky. Prior to the big spectacle, monks perform chants during an on-stage ceremony.
During the other key ritual of this beautiful festival, participants let go of krathong—small floating vessels made from banana stalks and decorated with incense, offerings, flower and candles—into rivers and lakes creating a beautiful sight. 
Surrounding events include bright parades, musical performances, beauty pageants, traditional dances, lantern-making contests, fireworks, and lots and lots of food.  
After this event, we heard there were close to 20,000 people here to witness this lantern release.  We got to the event around 4:30 pm to find a spot to sit in the immense crowds.  As in anyplace in Thailand, food and drinks were plenty and then we just had to wait almost 3 hours before the lanterns were released. 
Here is Millie getting her lantern ready to be lit from below and released with thousands of others into the night sky. 
It was amazing to see them all being released at the same time.

At the end of the night, it was a mass exodus of those same 20,000 people all leaving down the same pathway between the canal and river and it took a very very long time.  After walking 45 minutes (it should have taken only 5 to 10 minutes!) we made it to our motorcycles and lots of weaving in and out of traffic, we made it safely home again.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Loy Krathong dancers

Here in Thailand, we just finished celebrating the 3 days of Loy Krathong.  This beautiful festival is when sky lanterns known as Khom Loy are sent off into the sky and krathong are sent floating into the rivers with candles and incense.  Millie is part of a Thai dancing afterschool club.  Friday she performed traditional Thai dancing to the song Loy Krathong for the school's 60th Anniversary Celebration.
Here she is getting into costume and makeup put on.

This is my preschool building at school.  It was decorated for the holiday, as well.

The girls practicing before going on the big outside stage.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Railay Beach, Krabi Thailand

In mid-October, Chiang Mai International School had its' midterm break for one week.  We booked our 2 hour flight to Krabi, Thailand and headed to Railay Beach for 5 days.  The only way to get to our hotel was a 45 minute van ride from the airport and then a 15 minute speedboat ride to the hotel.
Here we are arriving up to the beach at the hotel, The Centura Grand Beach Resort and Villas Krabi.

Millie enjoying the beautiful beaches.

The view from our room.

Relaxing on the deck.
Since the hotel is located in a national park, there is lots of wildlife out and about the grounds.  This was a minotaur lizard that ran across our path on the way to the beach.
There were so many monkeys running all over the place.  They were so smart that you had to lock the door from the balcony to your room. Even if the doors were closed, the monkeys were smart enough to have learned how to open the doors and head straight for the mini bars located inside.  I even saw this one jumping into the jacuzzi to take a bath.

Monkey sneaking in between our deck sun shades to figure out if he can make a run for the mini bar, bottles of booze and packages of M & M's.

Mike had an umbrella that he used to chase them away.  The Thai staff all carried sling shots.  Mostly, Millie and I thought it was fun to have so many monkeys playing around.  Mike liked them too, until they yawned and he noticed how big their fangs were.
Millie trying out paddle boarding on the ocean.  It was a bonus to learn that the hotel offered free watersports everyday, so we also spent an hour sea kayaking. 

We were pretty isolated at the hotel, but discovered a path through the jungle called the monkey trail, that lead us to another beach around the next cove and into the town of Ao Nang.  So we went everyday on this crazy steep path into town to explore and eat dinner.  All the cheap massages were there in town too. 
Sunset over Ao Nang Beach.

Our boat ride back to civilization and home to Chiang Mai.