2000-2009: What a decade it’s been.

Back in 2000, I was freshly divorced with two kids and little life experience. Ten years on, I’ve earned my BA, my son’s nearing graduation, my daughter is bumping into her teen years and we’ve been able to visit Vietnam (2x), China, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Ten years of marriage and being a stay-home mom, followed by ten years of single motherhood. I wonder just what the next ten years will hold for each of us.


Celebrating on Koh Samui

Downtown Bangkok from the monorail station.

We made it out of Bangkok via train on Tuesday morning and spent the next eight hours choo-chooing down to a small city called Surat Thani. The kids slept nearly half the time, which was good for them (and me). Audrey was kind enough to let me borrow her lap for a bit and I, too, caught a bit of a cat nap. We’d been out far too late the night before at the night market (but did find Stuart some more school clothes) and then re-packing. I had to buy yet *another* suitcase there.

Did I mention that before? I’d sent Stuart along with Thang to ship some things home via the slow boat and had stuffed it all into a duffel bag. I reiterated to them both, Stuart and Thang, that I needed the bag back for packing other things to bring along, but in the chaos of the post office and numerous papers to fill out, the need to bring it back was forgotten. So the duffle bag was mailed home. Unfortunately that means we were short a suitcase. And of course this was the day before we were leaving Thanh Hoa, so I had little choice but to run to the open market across the street. I spent 150,000VND (about $8) on a small duffle.

Clearly the kids are thrilled to ride yet another train in Asia. Despite what it looks like, Audrey isn’t actually crying. I promise.

The next day as we hobbled up the street to find our hotel, the handles broke off the new duffle. This was a problem and, of course, the solution would be to spend even more money. The night before leaving Bangkok we found another bag, the red backpack/rolling bag in the picture above, and it did make it through the next leg of the journey).

You may be familiar with Phuket (lower left corner). Koh Samui is the island at the top right, Surat Thani is on the mainland.

Anyway, now after all those hours in the train, staying overnight in Surat Thani (in a crappy hotel, but getting to eat decent chicken at KFC), then a ferry ride and 1/2-hour car ride, we finally made it to Koh Samui. This is finally vacation.

I’d intended this to be our time to celebrate. Couples have anniversaries every year, but our trio hasn’t marked an anniversary in several. This year is special. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary as a trio and I’m thrilled to be in a place so beautiful and so calm to remember it. We’ve struggled through so much heartache, frustration and poverty over the years. Those things haven’t really gone away either, they’ve just eased a bit. But in the fall of 1999, when we moved out of our family-of-four house and out on our own, I would never have though we would ever be in Thailand. Or that I would love teaching English in a small university in Vietnam. I never though I’d want to write a book or that my kids would be so eager to try out the world. I’m so grateful for all the people that came along the way to encourage me to do more, see more, trust more. During our anniversary trip to Koh Samui, I’m thankful for so much. For my great kids, my family who help me in so many ways, for my students who’ve shown me such love, for Keith who went to Vietnam first, for Brian giving me two smart, funny and eager children. Truly, who’d have ever thought this is where I’d be ten years later.
———— Happy 10th to us…

At our hotel (Samui Reef View Resort). Not bad for $35/night.

The reef that we have a view of…

Details from a temple being built down the street from our hotel in Koh Samui.

Hi-ho Hi-ho, off to work I go

There’s nothing like a lot of work to keep you from being social, whether it’s stateside or abroad. And while my social life these days consists mostly of spending time with my kids and posting on this blog, both have been neglected the past few days.

Due to the national exams this week, the company was not able to find a Vietnamese national to teach the Reading and Writing segments of the course and asked me if I’d take it over for one of the classes. Usually I teach two different groups of students both the Listening and Speaking segments, but since I need the money, I agreed to take over the subjects for both classes. So instead of the regular 7-9 a.m., then 1:30-3:30 p.m. classes, I am teaching from 7-11 a.m., then 1:30-5:30 p.m. And then on Monday and Wednesday, I teach a community English class from 7-9 p.m. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired. 8-10 hours a day in front of a classroom full of students wears you out, in addition to the prep time that is required for each class. The kids have hardly seen me, but next Thursday I’ll end the 44-hour work week and go back to 20. Thank goodness.

Last night a few students came over to watch “Jumper” and eat popcorn with us. What a great snack! I found it in Hanoi and bought two bags of popcorn kernels. We also managed to find bacon, grated cheddar cheese, baking soda, real butter, a few spices (cumin, oregano and “Italian seasoning”), dried chickpeas and rice flour.  Of course, it cost as much, or more, than it would have in the States, but it’s nice to have a few things that will help make food more palatable for Audrey because despite her expressed intention to eat three square meals a day here, it’s turning into an issue again. At this point, I’ll do whatever and spend whatever to make sure she gets enough calories.

Despite my own best intentions, I haven’t managed to get as much writing done as I’d planned, though I have managed to get a few pages written over the past week and did some editing the week before. It just requires a lot of time and a lot of focus, something I haven’t had as much as I had hoped. Although, I must admit, it’s been helpful to be here when writing. The sounds and the smells had diminished in my memories and to be back makes it all clear again. I guess what I’m saying is that even though I’d planned to be done by now, it’s kinda good that I didn’t finish. There’s still so very much to be written.

Slowly But Surely

Having to deal with the rules regarding proof that the kids are mine alone has been more work than I figured it would be. I’ve visited the court house twice; the first time, the fellow there had no idea what I would need to provide proof. The second time was today and I knew what I needed. I stopped by the passport office at the Main Post Office and asked her exactly what I needed on Tuesday, then this morning I brought in my divorce papers to find out if it was actually what I needed. Yes, every single page, a copy for each kid and certified as authentic.

So, after dropping $23 at the courthouse for said papers, I was set.  I then set out to find a place to be fingerprinted. This was harder than the handy-dandy list provided by the sheriff made it seem. After two seedy buildings and  wandering dark hallways, I decided I would head to the place I’d seen on the way to school; it was run by a nice Russian lady and only cost me 8 bucks.

I’d brought along our birth certificates, passport applications, now had the certified proof of sole parental rights so after school we headed over to Walgreen’s to get our photos taken (the others had gone inexplicably wrong and I didn’t want to worry about it). Picture-taking wasn’t as easy as it should be: Audrey’s head was too small, then Stuart’s was slightly too small. Mine was do-able, but the kids’ had to be re-taken. Point-click. Oops. The media card wasn’t in the camera. Try it again and this time it worked just fine. At $8/2 photos, it racked up another $24 today.

We headed over to Fred Meyer to make photographic copies of the photos, but that didn’t work well (cut the sides off of the photos) so I said screw it and we’ll just go apply. Finally got back to the passport office to realize that they’d closed 20 minutes before. -sigh-

Thursday’s to-do list:
-apply for passports
-mail in fingerprints for background check
-send caramels to Ron
-send apron to Robin
-start working on new sewing job
-don’t forget homework (again)