Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Little Light Reading

I read _The Death and Life of Dith Pran_, a bound edition of the New York Times story written by Sidney Schanberg. It only took about an hour and a half, but now I feel I'm ready to read _Survival in the Killing Fields_ by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner. The book and the "Killing Fields" movie are intertwined as they share the horrors of survival under the Khmer Rouge, while the novel is Haing Ngor's memoir and the Times story and movie are about Dith Pran.

Another book I've read is _Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time_ by Dava Sobel. I know, it sounds dreadfully boring, but the author wrote a humorous account of the perils of old shipping lanes associated with not knowing where in the ocean you actually were; and of the race (which took decades) to discover a method for keeping track of time and place.

The novel I finished last night was Michener's _Caravan_. Silly me, I thought it took place in Africa somewhere. A personal preference is to not read what books are about beforehand. Hearing that "this author is good" or "this novel was interesting" is usually enough for me to try it out. I've been disappointed too many time by hearing rave reviews about a specific book and knowing too much about it beforehand to really enjoy the process of reading the pages. It never meets my preconceived expectations. But ANYWAY... this one takes place in Afghanistan and I really enjoyed his writing. What I found really intriguing was that it was written in 1963 and so much has changed from then, even from his comments about the Eastern Bloc. I'm certain I'll be giving some of his other books a try.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A little Catching Up

Three whole days since last I wrote? Shocking! So, what's going on anyway? I'm tired, so just a quick rundown.

Ian is having some issues getting his pilot's license. More about that if he feels the need to share.

Katherine is gearing up for her 9th birthday and her next swim meet.

Rebecca is still having troubles reading. What age do kids get evaluated for reading problems?

Nicholas is really blooming (he's 4, I can use that term for a boy) with his speaking and his socializing.

Jonathon has become very clingy, mostly in a good way.

The cats.. are going to a new home, on the 14th. They'll be indoor/outdoor cats there in a secure yard, which is a good thing because they have both been making more escape attempts when the door is left open.

Our stuff. Well, we had our packout survey done on Monday and the first wave of packers arrive next Monday. All that stuff will be going direct to VA and direct to Togo.

Things have been going so smoothly, I'm waiting for the bottom to drop out.

Monday, January 24, 2005

It's weird when...

It's weird when you know two completely separate people from two completely different circles and they end up in the same tiny town, specifically Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

They probably go to the same dry cleaner.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Still Searching

We're looking for a copy of John Stewart's _America_ but all the bookstores are sold out. I guess we'll have to wait until we get home.

We went to Fully Booked today because we love that store. For a few weeks it was a pain to visit. Seems they were reorganizing and shuffling their stock, because then every aisle was crammed with boxes and books covered the floor in stacks and now it seemed they had every book we've been looking for (ok, not _America_) sitting right out and the store felt full but uncluttered. Ian had been searching for the illustrated _DaVinci Code_ for me and today it was waiting on the first table. Woohoo! I also picked up a copy of _The Dante Club_ while Ian got another Grisham and Katherine has a new set of Boxcar Children.
We also went to the video store and picked up "Imelda". It was in the theaters but we didn't manage to see it then.
Lunch today was at Teak at Powerplant Mall. Eh, OK. The Thai salad was alright, Ian said his burger wasn't that flavorful. The girls said the potato leek soup was good and I know that Nicholas's pasta was good. But alright and good won't bring us back. Mati was -way- better.
This afternoon we created the beginnings of our Piles. Basically one to VA, one to Togo. I'm finding it much more difficult this time figuring out where things should go since we're planning six things at once. The items we're selling but not quite yet, the items we're not selling but not bringing with us, the items we'll need between packout and departure, the items we'll need in VA, the items we'll need right off in Togo, and then of course everything else we don't need right away anywhere and we won't see for almost a year.
We did a good job today but I do need to get the quilts cleaned before they get shipped to VA while sending the comforters and sleeping bags to Togo. I'll be going through the kids' drawers to send some ahead while keeping enough here for about a week that should fit in our suitcase. Of course our suitcases will be filled with mostly winter stuff. I went through all our tupperware keeping the flimsy ones here so they can be tossed out during our last week while putting some of the rest for Togo and some for VA. Ian cleared out the tool box which is going straight to Togo and after remembering the "no liquids" rule of UAB shipments, I had to redo the boxes of bathroom items I've pulled together. Same for the medicine box. We'll be carrying a pharmacy in our luggage for all the drugs that can't go UAB but will have expired by the time we see our HHE again.
And all that's only the beginning. We don't even have the packers here for another week so I know I'll feel even more wound up next Sunday at this time, when we're actually unplugging equipment and resigning ourselves to a quiet home. Just like our first couple weeks in Manila.
We have managed to break ties with many things and I hope it will only get better as packing day draws near... and the weighing scales. Things of all shapes and sizes that we thought one day we'll use, one day we'll finish, one day... one day. That day is now and to the curb they go. And disappear within minutes. Out of our house and into someone else's, the perfect form of recycling.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Can I go back to bed now?

When do we get to sleep in? Well never of course once you have kids but it sure would be nice.

Yesterday the boys were invited to a party for Kelly and Sunshine, held at Kids at Work. They, of course, had a blast in the germ factory. Sunshine turned 4, Kelly turned 5, and siblings were invited. So I crammed my four plus Meg and Katie into the car and we all trundled over together. At the same time as the party I also dropped off two pairs of glasses that needed repair and they were done by the end. It was amusing to walk through the mall with six little people trailing behind. We got the typical stares.
One of the games at the party was like musical chairs but much more clever and didn't induce kids to knock each other to the floor. Different colored construction paper was on the floor and enough squares for everyone to stand on one. Music played, kids danced and when the music stopped everyone hopped onto a square. A color was picked out of a bag and everyone on that color was out and the squares removed. It went on until there were two winners left. All the kids could dance even when they were "out" which is really all they cared about anyway.
We dropped Meg and Katie off just as their mom pulled up, and Meg asked if Katherine could sleep over. OKs all around, Katherine packed up a bag and went back to Meg's house, which really made -today- easy.
Katherine was invited to a birthday party for this morning, but Nicholas had a photo shoot for OshKosh way out at the Avalon Zoo past Marikina. Both couldn't be done at the same time but with Katherine at Meg's house, she went with them and then stayed until we got back. They went to Glorietta after and when we collected her she has just completed getting a pedicure and manicure. What an indulgence!
The rest of the family, as I said, was at the Avalon Zoo. Really really far away when we were supposed to be there by 8:30. Filipino time, we showed up about 9. Marikina isn't even on our street map and the little map we'd been given... well, let's just say distances on the paper weren't quite what they were in real life. There was also some concern among the other moms about the safety of the area, being so close to the northern hills and guerilla groups. We all figured that as long as we were home before dark all would be well. I figured if we were gone by noon, all would be well. Can you imagine kids standing around and smiling for 8 hours?
It was a simple affair where Nicholas had been asked to model some clothes along with five other kids, two of them being Kelly and Hannah from his preschool class. They did swimsuits while blowing bubbles and eating watermelon and other clothes while playing with beach balls. The zoo was actually pretty nice with animals as varied as wallabees, tigers and tapiers, and the compound was pleasant. Not a bad place to be, it was just so far away. Were there no places closer that could have sufficed for greenery? Afterall, none of the pictures involved animals of any sort.
The photos should be out in March, so I'll be asking Jennifer and Kristine to watch out for them. I also gave the organizer our e-mail address. Because you know, we'll be home in 26 days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

As actual numbers roll in...

The tsunami loss exceeds 200,000 lives. The true number will never be known, but the thought that in less than 15 minutes almost a quarter of a million people died...

It's mind-numbing.

Our friend, Chris, was flown to Phuket on Jan 2nd. Yesterday he gave a presentation to the Ambassador and the Consular officers about what he did and what we saw.

One survivor he spoke to tried to describe what happened. The survivor said it was like being in a washing machine. A washing machine filled with people, bricks, trees and trucks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

*Moment of Silence*

Tomorrow is the big day.

The treasured blanket has been found (in the top drawer of the kids' computer desk, of all places). It has been laundered, folded and gently put aside. Tomorrow, it will go in his Special Box. The same box that holds his tiny shoes, his baptism cross, the newspaper from the day he was born and an assortment of other milestone remembrances.
It's been nearly five years in the making and the time has come to bid farewell to his most favored of comforters. The once plush baby blue blanket has thinned and worn holes. It has turned a dusky gray with its frayed edges and chewed corners. It has been a hero's cape, a turban and a wrap. Most often, it has been a source of warmth and comfort and his best friend.
He asked me several times today if he could have it back once it was clean, then remembered that he didn't need it anymore. But I'm sad to see it go. Somehow I felt that as long as he had it, he was still my little guy. The one who needed an extra ounce (for that's all it weighs anymore) of security. With the blanket he was my quiet little boy who could be calmed just by touching the fragile piece of cloth. But who am I kidding, he hasn't been a calm, shy, insecure boy in a long while. It's been painfully obvious how he's been growing out of the blanket phase simply by how often he misplaces it. I'm certain it has phased me more than him. I spent evenings looking for it while he slept peacefully on. I spent days looking, for my own reassurance more than his.
It's time for me to break the blanket ties for both of us and accept that Nicholas is becoming secure with himself. It's time for mom to let him go a little more.
He looked at me over dinner and did have one final request though. He asked if he could be the one to put it into his box tomorrow.
Absolutely, Nicholas. Just don't be surprised if mom sheds a little tear for the big kid you're becoming and the part of the little boy you're leaving behind.

I made a new friend today.

How weird does that sound? I made a new friend. But heck, it's a good think no matter what age you are, and I should get used to it with this lifestyle.

Christy found our website when there was a chance she and her husband would be moving here from Hong Kong. At the end of last year she e-mailed, they did a scouting trip to find a place to live, and moved into the neighborhood next to ours mid-December. She e-mailed me again now they're a bit settled and we met for coffee at the Starbucks at San Antonio Plaza.
For 2 1/2 hours I nursed my marshmallow mocha and we chatted a little about everything. She's fun to talk to and I can only hope that whatever information I have to impart to her can be of use. Tomorrow we're going to the bazaar. Should be fun.
In other news, my dad got a job promotion. His new title is way cooler and I think he'll be much happier. Longer travel, but less often which will be easier on him in the long run. Congrats!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A quiet weekend at home

Mostly the weekend was quiet. But I think my idea of "quiet" is changing over time.

We've sold the van (delivery date not until 16 February though). A family arrived with 5 kids and no car and it happens that they live a few streets down from us, so we'll get some basic maintenance done and pass them the keys right before we leave. Here's a cheer!!
Ian set up the Mongolian Grill for our party. We're expecting anywhere between 75-100 people and didn't want the fuss of doing it ourselves, so here comes the catering. You know what a Mongolian Grill is, right? I didn't before last year. It's a buffet but everything is basically raw (except the rice). Dump what you want (meat, rice, veggies, including the sauces and spices) into a bowl and hand it to a chef guy with a giant wok. He cooks it all up, puts it into a clean bowl and voila.
We picked up the remaining items from the frame shop. I have a cloth painting from a class trip I took in 7th grade to Ivory Coast. It's been dragged around, taped to walls, hung with makeshift rods and stuffed in closets. Now, it's framed beautifully and will finally take its place on our walls.
Katherine had her swim meet Saturday morning (I only caught her first two times again... 1min8sec for 50m freestyle and 34secs for 25m backstroke). The meet was at ISM with 8 different schools racing but everything ran like clockwork so it didn't take any longer than the other meets. The rest of the kids spent most of their time at the playground with friends.
Today we had church followed by some tennis and swimming and then lunch at Caffe Puccini at The Fort. I haven't slept well all week so I had a nap this afternoon then we all went to the playground for a bit. Ian let the girls watch Lord of the Rings while I napped. I know Jonathon went off to play computer games and I hope Nicholas didn't watch the movie because I still think it's too much for him. I heard the music of the Shire as I was drifting off and it almost made me cry. How silly is it that I miss New Zealand so much after only spending two weeks there? It impressed me so much.
Tomorrow the boys (all 3) and I are home while the girls have school. The International School doesn't recognize MLK day, obviously. So we'll have a little work done on the van, look around the furniture store at Glorietta for some nice CD cabinets and when the girls are home, we're off to Seafront for a grill-out with Ryan, Laura and Audrey. Looking forward to it. We'd like to have them to our house, but Laura doesn't seem too comfortable with being that far away for her home, and we have these lovely cats she's allergic to.
Ah, the cats. Still no offers to adopt them. This is frustrating because they aren't coming with us, but we can't exactly leave them with no one. The last big hurdle at this point, so wish us luck we find them a nice home here in Manila.
Personal Note: Over a couple days I read _Black Like Me_ by John Howard Griffin, a white man who temporarily darkened his skin with medication, lights and cosmetics, then ventured into the Deep South as a black man. While the experiment took place in 1959 and the book came out shortly thereafter, it's sad to see how many pockets of the hatred he faced still exist in America. Over 40 years later and there are still people condoning racist ideals behind the guise of religious rightousness and "what's right for America." On the flip side, I was happy to read the book and know that it's not that extreme anymore. Over the past 40+ years government has woken up and people have woken up and it has been an extremely slow process but one definitely worth working through and continuing to work through.
For me and my family, it's not a matter of integration but a matter of being colorblind. I take great pleasure when my children try to point out a friend and pick the color of their shirt, when the child is the only black, indian or caucasian on the playground.
Tomorrow is our holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. The book is an easy read, pick it up from your library.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Long Weekend for Some

Tomorrow is Katherine's swim meet. If you're in the area, come on down! It's at ISM this time, from 9 until about 2. We'd love to see you there. Rebecca bowed out of it as she's not a strong swimmer, but she still goes to daily practice to get better, and we're very proud of her for sticking with it. I know it's tiring.

Also, we sold the van!! Woohoo! They won't get it until the 16th of February, but it's good to know that it won't be sitting here with no home.

Last big thing.. the cats. Come on, don't you want these cute, cuddly, completely vaccinated and healthy kitties?? I know you do.

Monday is a holiday for Ian and the boys, but not for the girls. We're have to do something -extra- fun during the day *wink* In the afternoon Ryan and Laura have invited us over for a BBQ.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More nibbles

We might actually have someone for the van. Fingers crossed!

I've printed out the health forms for the girls for Arlington. I'm really hoping the doctor's office can take the info straight from their State clearance exams so I don't have to drag them back in to the office. I also have their class supply lists. Thinking of just buying the stuff here and mailing it back because it'll be a) cheaper and b) one less thing to do the second we land.

That Friday is going to be exhausting anyway. I'm rather hoping (mom, you listening??) that my mom will take the kids that day so Ian and I can run as fast we can and get things done. Though we might have to bring the girls to the school? We'll do that last.

Cat is out of the bag

We're coming home on February 17th.

So far we have an apartment waiting for us in Arlington. It's furnished, has 3 bedrooms and falls under per diem. Whee!
We've sold our big TV and VCR. The camcorder was the first to go. The Jeep is gone. We're still trying to sell our van. PLEASE cross your fingers that someone buys the van before we leave here. Please Please Please.
Still to do? Too many things to count, but here's a quick rundown:
*Find a car in NoVA. That's a last minute thing since unless we buy new (which makes little sense for us) it all depends on what's available. If the current USed Lot findings are any indication though, we should be able to find a nice and affordable used Highlander without too much trouble. Hopefully.
*Enroll the kids in school. They'll be attending the Arlington Science Focus School. The default school is Key Elem. It's a Spanish immersion school a couple blocks away from the apt building. Great school, but we're going to a French speaking country and I don't think it would do anyone any good to have the kids come home saying "Hablo Espanol". So Science Focus it is, and I'm excited. Of course, this is done the day after we land in VA, so another thing I've already started (get the forms, talk to the school) but cant't finish yet.
*Sell the van. Any day now, really!
*Set up separate UAB shipments. We're going to a fully furnished apt in the States right outside DC and near my parents, what do we need to bring tennis rackets for? But items like tennis rackets, art supplies, movies, toilet scrubbers, bath mats, flashlights, tool kit, soccer balls, quilts, will all be -very- welcome ASAP in Togo. So we're getting things together to have our UAB split.
*Then of course, we need to actually pull all this stuff together. I get the itch to do it N-O-W, but I know it would bug me to have a big pile of stuff sitting around for 5 weeks. And if I need something in the meantime, I'll have to pull it out but my brain will think it's already in the pile and... you can see I'm overthinking this.
*Find the cats new homes. We were a good foster family, but are looking for a nice Manila residence for our nice Manila cats.
*Sell the van! Have I mentioned that already?
*Throw out, toss, and clean up. Again, so much for the last minute. I want to go through all the tupperware, all the silverware, all the kids' clothes and the toys (again). I can do this! But not today.
*Get a rental car at the airport. I'll be doing that tonight.
Well, that's the short list. What have I forgotten?
Oh yeah, throw a party on the 5th. Right.

Monday, January 10, 2005

On a whim

On a whim I decided to take Jonathon in to the doctor's office today. His thumb is still swollen though he isn't crying over it anymore.

Two x-rays later and there you have it... it's fractured.
Yup, the little monster dropped a 12 pound bowling ball on his thumb and cracked the bone at the tip. The doctor offered to splint it, but Jonathon is babying it enough without a splint and anything we put on would get taken off in 10 seconds or less. She did say that kids heal really quickly from this sort of thing, so I think he'll be just fine. At preschool today they were practicing writing and he used his left hand OK so all should be well.
I'm sure when he's older he'll swear the bowling ball attacked him.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Always something.

Being Sunday, today was church day.

Rather than go to our regular parish which we've never been thrilled with, we attended Mass at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. Parking was a breeze, surprisingly enough though we did have to pay the random guy who was standing there pretending to be a parting attendant. A parking attendant for the side of the road, to attend church. *sigh*
The Cathedral is so much nicer with the lights on and the fans blowing. We arrived with the steps overflowing with wedding attendees. Sunday weddings are not at all uncommon, but it does make for an interesting situation if you're planning on attending a regular Mass. Thankfully for us, the baptism going on was being held in a side chapel (though apparently with a megaphone instead of a microphone) and the wedding was either still gathering at the end of Mass or the people just like to hang out there for hours.
The church sure looked pretty though, all decked out.
So we sat way up front since the girls wanted to watch the wedding that didn't happen. Mass started off in English with a rendition of Joy to the World no one could sing with. I'm not sure the jeans clad teen had ever actually heard Joy to the World before, neither had her jeans clad teen electric piano accompanist. It started steady, then sped ahead, skipped over the short interludes, went even faster, remembered the interludethe singer didn't stay with the piano and the congregation couldn't figure out where the singer was. This is in the Cathedral at the 10 a.m. Mass celebrating the Baptism of Jesus? Wow.
The sung parts (aside from that song) were all in Tagalog. Not a problem, it's mostly in Tagalog at San Antonio too. The readings and all the other parts of the Mass were in English. Then came the homily. And it was all in Tagalog. Well, that would usually makes it really hard to follow along. But we got the gist of it. Since Taglish is the real "language" spoken here, we caught the important phrases. There were literally a dozen English words spoken and these were them:
American citizen
American Embassy
American passport
Catholic birth certificate
originial sin
Gee. Wonder what THAT whole homily was about, huh? Ian was highly annoyed.
After church, the wedding goers were still there and the baptism was packed so we headed back towards home. The kids asked to go bowling so off to Powerplant and we had a fun bowling set. I won! Yup. 169, not too shabby and lots of luck. Nicholas won among the kids with 99. All I can say is, thank goodness for bumpers *wink* Jonathon was having fun until he got a bit bored waiting for his turn and decided to play with the racks of balls not in play.
He dropped a 12 pound ball on his thumb.
It's bruised, it's swollen, he cried a lot and didn't want ice on it. He whimpered until he fell asleep on my lap at lunch. But after his nap, while it's still swollen, it didn't impede his activities, so I think he'll live. The nap did him -very- good too. He has been absolutely miserable since our trip and making our lives miserable in the process. He yells at people if he doesn't get his way and not just No, but loud screaming type yelling that can devolve to repeated shouts of Shut Up. And he's taken to hitting us! Obviously that is not going over well at all.
He's been sick, I know. He's sick so he's not eating as much as he should, making him even crankier. And he's not getting enough sleep. All that together and none of his behavior should be a surprise. But it's still unexpected. Jonathon has always been a handful. He's always been the smallest, not just the obvious youngest but he started off the smallest of the babies too, and his temper has quite made up for that. Ugh. His crankiness is wearing on all of us.
On the flip side, he's not feeling well so he's so clingy. He wants me and only me. He wants to be carried, he wants to be held, and not just held but he wraps his arms around me and buries his head. He has hugs and kisses and pleas for attention and cuddling. I can't hold it against him, but any parent knows that sometimes after a screaming and crying jag (him, not me), sometimes it's hard to be the comforting mom he needs me to be.
And then I had a headache. Joy. Thankfully his nap continued after we came home from lunch so while Ian had the other kids I layed down with the little man. We both got up feeling better and I think that with school resuming this week we'll try to get a nap in the first couple days when he gets home. I just want my happy boy back.

Friday, January 7, 2005

A neat thing happened on the way to...

The mall.


Yeah yeah yeah. Trust me, if I could write about going to other places, I would. But seeing as to get shoes/clothes, have a haircut, buy eyeglasses, get groceries, go the movies, go bowling, go ice skating, or eat at a restaurant you pretty much have to go to a mall, so I can't help it.
Anyhow, this morning Rebecca and Jonathon had a doctor's appointment about their feet. Both of them are pigeon-toed so I wanted to get the opinion of the doctor here before heading to the States. She can get the ball rolling for us to have the kids' gait examined more closely. Poor Becca, she's going to have a busy summer with a pediatric orthopedist and a planned ECG.
Here I am, digressing again. So, after the doctor's appointment we went to Glorietta. The girls don't go back to school until Tuesday but the boys go back on Monday so today was my last day to get a few things for them. Technically we still have the weekend but since Ian would rather have his toenails pullled out one by one rather than get the kids some shoes, I figured I'd get it over with. And I figured we could use our Cinderella gift certificates and get Katherine an extra set of glasses as insurance. Afterall, if she has one pair she'll break them then lose them in two months. If she has three pairs she'll have them for five years with no problem.
We arrived at the mall entrance with about 15 minutes to waste before it opened. Malls here don't open until 10, grocery stores don't open until 8:30 at the earliest. PriceSmart doesn't open until 9 and our dry cleaner doesn't open until 9:30. If you plan it Just So, it can work out perfectly with multiple errands. Most of the time, I end up driving around or sitting in a partking lot waiting for something to open though. So we had 15 minutes as we wandered over to the doors. The kids and I were chatting about I don't know what, when a really tall guy walks up and says "Michele?"
It was Amos Lyso, on vacation visiting a friend in Manila and on his way back to Seoul (where he teaches at the same school his father is director) this afternoon. Now, bumping into someone I know who isn't from the Embassy is rare enough. Bumping into someone I know who's in the general region has never happened. And bumping into Amos was a wonderful gift.
See, I haven't seen Amos in about 18 years. We were schoolmates in Niamey, Niger (look it up!) when I was in 7th grade and he was in 5th grade, and his father was the director of the school there as well. The American School was so small we all played together, swam together and basically did everything together. Siblings gelled the group together. Amos's older sister was in my class and we correspond periodically to this day. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding 8 1/2 years ago.
Amos was on his way to National Bookstore before heading off to the airport at 11 or I would have invited him to have lunch with us, but while we waited we chatted about everything and nothing in particular. I think the kids were a little weirded out when I hugged this guy they had never laid eyes on before.
Once the doors opened we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
I'm thankful I didn't decide to wait in the car or go into the grocery store first like I'd considered. I know that when I'm out with the kids I rarely pay close attention to the faces around me so I'm especially thankful that he recognized me and said Hi. My biggest regret is not having Katherine take a photo of us. I have taken to bringing my camera everywhere I go now, but in the excitement of the moment I completely forgot. And while I wish I could say "next time", I know that could be next year or another 20 years from now, if ever. But I will say this, he brought a small part of my past that was disappearing from memory back to life. Thanks Amos! I hope you had a good trip back to Seoul.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Heading Home

Our tour here is up this year and we're looking for a place to live in NoVA/DC while we're back for training. Anyone have a house they're renting out they'd like to tell us about? We'd love to hear from you. We'll be back over the summer and would prefer not to be in a hotel/extended living place, though we're waiting to hear back from several at the moment.

But we'd really like a house.

Sunday, January 2, 2005


We discovered somewhere new today. "Mati" on the ground floor of Powerplant.

It's a Greek restaurant with tasty food. You can get there either from the street (Amanpolo?) or from within, down the corridor next to the Mont Blanc store.
The moussaka was yummy, the chicken tender and Ian said his gyro was really good. We highly recommend it.
We also give a thumbs up to a new computer game series (for us, I don't know when it actually came out). The "ClueFinders" games are fun and actually a little difficult. There are games for 3rd through 6th grades and Katherine has completed the 4th grade edition. It has loads of math in it, which she has troubles with in school.
In other news, Jonathon bounced back today and was as sweet as could be. How could I say no to anything the boy asked for when he held my hand through most of dinner, gave lots of kisses and told me he loved me.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

What else is there to do on New Year's Day?

What's there to do on January 1? Oh, I suppose we could be bundled up by a fire. Maybe building snowmen somewhere. Or perhaps walking downtown with our noses red and a chill in our bones?


Today the weather was cloudy in the morning while we stayed home, cleaned up a bit, played computer games and board games, and had a leisurely brunch of omelettes, bagels, and cereal. There were no major fights and even minimal bickering. Is this an auspicious beginning to the year? Smooth sailing in 2005?
As I mentioned previously, children out of the house are happy children, so we decided to go out for a bit. The skies cleared, the sun beat down as the breeze picked up. The weather was lovely and Ian had an idea. Across the street from The Fort is Par 43. Minigolf.
Six clubs and six balls, please!
We began the course and had a blast. No one fought, no one even bickered. No one cared how lousy the plastic greens were. No one complained if it took 7 shots to get the ball in the hole. We took our proper turns, we enjoyed the shady spots, just about everyone got a hole-in-one at some point and it was proclaimed "lots of fun".
It was thirsty work, so we drove over to the nearby Market! Market! that Ian hadn't been in yet. He wasn't impressed. It may be 5 levels, but it's dreary inside, half the stores still haven't opened or were closed for the holiday and there were throngs and throngs of people. Worse, we were a spectacle again everywhere we went even when waiting for fruit shakes. Ah well. Market! Market! has a huge outdoor covered playground the kids enjoy, so we had our drinks and a snack then let them play for a bit. By the time we returned home it was nearly 4:30. As they say, time flies when you're having fun.
The only one not having fun today was Jonathon. He's been sick for the past few days, it appears to be a cold. But today while we were at minigolf he became feverish and didn't want to play, so he sat on the side of each hole as we completed the course. At the mall he had a fruit shake to cool down as well, then promptly fell asleep on my lap and slept on daddy's lap while the other kids were at the playground.
A bath at home seemed to make him feel better and medicine before dinner will help him to sleep soundly tonight. What a way to start the new year. Poor little guy.

The Gift of Giving

A co-worker of Ian's offered his time and talents (he's lived there before and speaks the language) to head over to Indonesia. He was turned down by State, they have enough people currently staffing the consular and American services sections.

If someone as able as Chris was turned down to fly in and help, what can the rest of us do to feel like we're doing -something-? Here's a guideline from the Center for International Disaster Information:
The gist is the following: "Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster victims and to pay for the transportation necessary to distribute those supplies. Unlike in-kind donations, cash donations entail no transportation cost. In addition, cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased at locations as near to the disaster site as possible. Supplies, particularly food, can almost always be purchased locally - even in famine situations. This approach has the triple advantage of stimulating local economies (providing employment, generating cash flow), ensuring that supplies arrive as quickly as possible and reducing transport and storage costs. Cash contributions to established legitimate relief agencies are always considerably more beneficial than the donation of commodities."
Please read the rest of the document, it's really informative and makes you feel better if "all I can do" is send money; or if you really want to learn how to be involved hands-on.
CNN has put up a lengthy list of aid groups accepting monetary donations at
Most of the sites will let you choose the specific disaster you'd like to aid, the tsunami victims being the biggest movement at the moment, but with ongoing work in Sudan, Afghanistan and other troubled spots around the world that all need funding. Do read through the sites. Every organization breaks down its expenses differently so you know exactly which dollars are going where. Also, as an example, clicking on the "Make a Donation" link for Doctors Without Borders will bring up a notice saying the outpouring has been so great for the Asia relief that they're asking for any further donations to be sent to the general Emergency Relief Fund to continue supporting other relief efforts.
If you can, choose a relief service and send then something. The crisis along the Indian Ocean is far from over just because the waves have receded, and hundreds of thousands of lives need to be rebuilt. Even if we can't give them water, bandage their wounds or dry their tears, we can each do our part and change their world.

The Amazing Stats!

Hey, we're easily thrilled :)

In February 2004 (January has fallen off the 12-month chart already and I don't want to go searching for it), we had an average 79 visits to our website per day and a monthly total of 2300 visits. That's not too shabby!
Fast forward to December 2004, and our numbers are slightly higher with 251 daily visits and and an average 7800 per month.
Folks find us through search strings and direct request; and people visit us from the UK to Japan to Brazil to Croatia to South Africa to Israel. In all, 53 countries logged in during the month of December.
Of course some of our hits are junk and a number of them are a result of having a lot more -stuff-on our site since 12 months ago. We've had several people this year find us and e-mail questions ranging from generalizations on Manila to specifics about the Foreign Service. It's been fun knowing we've played a small role in helping some folks with their visit or move here. We've even been linked to on other FS sites which was never my goal.
My parents keep up with the kids and our activities through, which is the purpose of this site. In addition there are other people reading our site, which is just plain exciting!
2005 promises to be another adventurous year. Thanks for reading!