Feelings Friday (25)

I’m not feeling awesome guys. I don’t know what is happening with my body, but I’m feeling really, really low. I know I’ve mentioned that I struggle with anxiety before, but this depressed feeling is something new for me. I mean, I get it. It’s a chemical imbalance, or sometimes (potentially my case) situational, but it SUCKS. It feels awful. And I can tell myself “hey, this isn’t normal or right” but I also can’t make myself fix it. So that totally sucks. Thank goodness for my kids, who well sometimes obnoxious, are also a pure delight. They’ve both had new after school activities this week which have really grabbed their attention, and hearing about what they’re doing has really helped my mood.

I also met a new friend, who moved to Ann Arbor after we left and now is here! She taught me to make toast in my fish broiler!

;/..,,,,,,,,////So basically, she’s cool and a fricken genius. Of course, now the that the cat is out of the (bread) bag, the kids want toast all the time, and thusly I was left with no bread for toast today.

However, Rosie and I finally attempted cookies. I woke up from second nap today (this blue mood is real yo) and wanted chocolate chip cookies, SO BADLY. SO I caved and bought flour. I just randomly chose the one that had bread on it, because that was a baked good instead of shrimp which was the picture on the other bag.

AND THEY WORKED

SO TASTY.

And this little ball of fluff really helps keep me going.

Why yes, we let the bunny have free roam of our entire living room, so she can nap under the couch instead of napping in a cage, LIKE AN ANIMAL. I’m sure she and Sushi will get along great. Sushi also does not enjoy being an animal.

I feel like you should all see how well trained Baxter is.

*OK WordPress won’t upload the video tonight, but imagine me saying “GO HOME BAXTER! And her jumping up and running home on command.

I told Nathaniel that he bought the best bunny in the whole world Acause (one of Rosie’s adorable words) she is so well trained and he told me that eventually “anyone will bend to your will”. But he hasn’t yet. . . .. Do I keep trying?

Also for your viewing pleasure:

This weekend we have two parties which I’m looking forward to. In fact, on Sunday we have a party at one of Nathaniel’s Japanese coworkers, which is thrilling to me. I imagined that I would have to play a good Toyota Trophy wife a lot on this assignment and so far, no. I’m very excited to see what it’s like.

We still don’t know when we’ll be coming back to Michigan. The kids have started to express their desire to “go home” but unfortunately they’re not in charge of that decision. I promise to keep people up to date with information as it comes to us. Which is slowly, and not in a timely fashion.

I hope you all are well. Feel free to drop me a note to tell me how you are.`

Catch Up Tuesday

How y’all doing?

Here’s what you missed:

You may recall that I lost/had my cell phone stolen in Vietnam. Well, unfortunately that is not where the cell phone saga ends for us. Isaac had, completely by accident, used Nathaniel’s phone on the network (he thought he was on wifi) for an hour or two watching YouTube in Cambodia. Would you like to know how much that cost?

Almost $4000. SERIOUSLY. We came home to a bill for that, and to find out that Nathaniel’s cell phone had been turned off until we paid that amount. UH. NO. We panicked. I tried to have the after hours help from our relocation company assist us, but that really didn’t work. Nathaniel, poor sick Isaac and I headed to the Y Mobile store on Sunday in an effort to have Isaac apologize for using the network, and get them to reduce the bill. The end result of that was really. . . Nothing. They really couldn’t help us. At that point it made no sense for me to buy a new phone because our phone account was suspended. They did however loan us a pocket wifi so that we could use Nathaniel’s phone out and about on wifi. WHICH IS SUPER AWESOME customer service. They needed us to come back between January 15-19 with an in person translator. Why those dates? I’m still not sure. #becausejapan

I immediately emailed our relo company to arrange to have someone come with us for the translation and got a big fat NO from them. I’m not going to lie. Part of me wants to use this blog to smear their name up and down the inter webz because I’m so frustrated with their lack of service. BUT, the other part of me is a good person. She won this time.

I hired a translator who came with us on Monday (yes, Nathaniel had to take the day off of work for this!) and she got them to reduce the bill. To $175!!!!! EXCELLENT! We are MORE than willing to pay that. Of course, in a #PureJapan moment, we have to wait for them to reissue the bill, so it can be sent to us, so I can pay it, so they can reinstate our account. So still no phones for us, but it’s a HUGE relief that we don’t have to pay $4k. YMobile customer service has been AMAZING through all of this. So if you’re ever in the hood and need a cell phone, I’d recommend them.

As a bonus, here is poor sick Isaac, asleep at YMobile. (Don’t worry, he’s better now!)

Other things that have happened:

Baxter turned ONE!!! Happy Birthday Baxter! She got lots of gifts.

Her stacking cups were her favorite gift.

Isaac got over his hideous cold and (knock on wood) none of us got the same thing.

The kids are back at school, and this week all of their After School Activities start. Which has me driving all over Nagoya every day. Once the phone thing is sorted, they can take a phone with them and take the bus and then train home 2 Days a week which will save me.

I’ve been reading through my blogs from a year ago, when we first got here as they pop up on my Facebook. It’s been really interesting to me. Some things that seemed so foreign back then are so second nature now. And other things are still so much the same! I still really miss being in Michigan and my family and friends and my dog. But I can now hang an entire load of laundry in 10 minutes, and I do every Monday-Friday. I’m not scared to drive at all anymore. I still don’t like driving, but I didn’t like it in Michigan either. I still need help finding certain items. For the first time since we got here, I had to buy lightbulbs. And I legit had to ask my friend where you buy lightbulbs. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I had never looked for them before, and my brain is constantly moving a mile a minute trying to process everything in 2 languages that I don’t have the capacity to absorb extraneous information, like where the lightbulbs are!

Speaking of multiple languages, I hit up Japanese IKEA today!!!! It was, really really really confusing. Because it was 1/2 Japanese, 1/2 Swedish (if that’s really Swedish. . . ) and none English. In my mind, I assumed there would be some Swedish and some English but no. There wasn’t. Also their coffee sucks.

On Sunday we went and saw the new Star Wars movie. It’s the first movie theatre experience in Japan for us. I could have done without the movie (I’m the only person in the whole world who doesn’t like Star Wars, I know) but I LOVED this popcorn holder!

IT’S FRICKEN HANDS FREE POPCORN. I need this everywhere I go! How cool is that?

Nathaniel and I found the most hipster lunch place ever yesterday and it was SOOO GOOD

For dessert we had DEEP FRIED OREOS a la mode.

THIS WAS AMAZING. So incredibly tasty. SO GOOD.

I guess that’s really it. If you have things you’d like to hear more about, or suggestions or requests, please let me know!!!

Reflections on our Trip

I promised I’d share some thoughts and tidbits about our Southeast Asia tour that didn’t fit in to other posts. So here they are.

Remember how Rosie was terrified the first time we rode in the “safety taxi” in Pattaya? After that she requested we ride in them every time. Kids. I tell ya.

As some of you may know, I’m passionate about Child (and adult) passenger safety. My focus in my job back in the states was making sure that kids were as safe in the car as they possibly could be. I might have died a little bit when we got into a taxi in Hanoi (our last stop) and Rosie exclaimed with delight “I have a seat AND a seatbelt!” I know better. I know the laws of physics still apply in third world countries and in taxis. But, I also don’t want to sit in a hotel and not be able to go anywhere when we take these trips. So we do the best we can. And as soon as we were back in Japan, my kids who are 8 and 10 both sat in their booster seats. My kids understand that being safe in the car (and in the kitchen, bathroom, stairs, escalators etc) is really important and they do not argue about getting into their booster seats. They understand that it’s not an option. But they also understand that it’s ok to break the rules a little bit. ONLY if Mom says it’s ok. Not Dad, only Mom. (Ok they don’t know that, but I wish they would!)

In Cambodia, we saw a lot of carvings and statues of Apsara, a Hindu water god. Isaac was reading the guide book for us the first day and was very excited to see the “Hall of Dancing Asparagus”. None of us were reading the book, so we went along with it. Then it became a running joke.

Also, Isaac got toothpaste in his eye. He was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when I heard “MOM MOM MOM MOM!” Like he was dying. I go bursting in there and he sobs “I have toothpaste in my eye”. I don’t even know how one does that. And I’m like super duper clumsy. It became another running joke. He also shot rice out his nose. So he had an eventful vacation.

We bought Baxter souvenirs. I’d like to say that it was the kids, but really it was me. Every time we saw a bunny thing, we had to have it for Baxter. She has a whole collection of things. Seriously. That bunny has a shopping problem.

OH! The best one: In Pattaya there was an extensive mini bar selection. Isaac announced “there is bug spray and condoms! Are you going to do it?” To which I replied, “NO! You’re in the next bed!”

The look on Isaac’s face told me he meant “Are you going buy bug spray?” Not, you know, the other thing. . . . So there’s that.

Rosie had a meltdown at lunch on the day we did the Cu Chi tunnels and the river tour. There were bees and she lost her ever loving shit. It was awful. She couldn’t contain herself and we were eating with a group of 6 other adults and no other kids. She was flipping out and carrying on and it was not pretty. In her defense, she was also really overtired from NYE the night before and traveling and all that, but her behavior was NOT acceptable. She lost electronics for the ret of the trip. In order to even BEGIN earning them back (which she eventually did a few days later) she had to apologize to the 3 other couples on the trip for making lunch miserable. Now, that sucks. It sucks to have to say you’re sorry when you did something wrong. It sucks as a kid to say you’re sorry to an adult, let alone a stranger. But if you’re willing to act a fool in front of them, you should be willing to say you’re sorry. And it took her most of the rest of the day to do it, but she did. And while I was more than disappointed with her behavior at lunch, I was equally more than proud of her for facing her fears and apologizing (sincerely) to 6 adults she barely knew. GO ROSIE! (And I’ll just pat myself on the back for that one, THANKYOUVERYMUCH)

We’ve gotten pretty used to how safe Japan is. We go into giant malls and the kids go off on their own. The walk to the store down the street on their own and buy snacks and pay my bills. They take the train on their own. They go to bathroom alone. But in a third world country, it’s not as safe. That’s a BIG change for us. Isaac sort of understands it, but Rosie wants to ask a lot of questions about why she can’t go anywhere on her own, and why she has to stay with an adult all the time. It’s hard because I don’t want to scare them, but I want them to be alert and safe. We did a lot of walking with Nathaniel leading the way, then the 2 kids, and me trailing. And I kept one hand on my purse all the time. Except when I lost my phone apparently.

And then there is the contaminated water. The water in all 3 countries we visited isn’t safe to drink, or brush your teeth with. I cannot begin to tell you how many single use bottles of water we went through. It was sickening. We rarely use disposable bottles in Japan or the US so having to take all of our drinks from them was awful for me. I love the earth.

And in all of these countries, you don’t flush toilet paper. You throw it in the dustbin. And you bring your own TP. And the toilet seats aren’t heated. If there are toilet seats. And doors. It’s an experience going to the bathroom at some of the places. I’m a pro at going before we leave and at the nice lunch place we go to and not again until we get back to the hotel. But we did some pretty awful bathrooms thanks to Rosie. I always pee when we’re going in because this one may be bad, but you never know how bad the next one will be!

All of that aside, I LOVED this trip. I learned a lot about history. I met wonderful people. I (mostly) enjoyed my family. I drank a lot of beer. (It was cheaper than bottled water in a lot of places). I introduced isaac to pedicures and massages. (That was maybe a mistake) And I have a whole list of places I want to go back to again!

20:25 is not 10:25

Or, the story of how we got from Vietnam from Japan.

The kids like to know exactly what time planes leave, how long the flight will last, what time we’ll leave the for the airport, what time we’ll get to the airport, how long the wait will be, if there’s a layover, do we have to do customs and security, on and on and on. I swear to you we went over the details of EVERY flight (and there were 7 total) every day for the entirety of the trip. Well, Nathaniel did because I was not in charge of anything on this trip.

Anyway, we had a 10:25 flight from Hanoi to Bangkok. As we were in the cab on the way to the airport at 7:20 Isaac was asking for clarification AGAIN.

Isaac: So we leave at 10:25, fly 2 hours, have a 2 hour layover and then leave Bangkok for Nagoya at 12:50am?

OVER AND OVER.

WAIT. How do we leave at 10:25, arrive at 12:25 and have a 2 hour layover before we leave at 12:50am?

Nathaniel at this point realized that our flight was at 20:25. Which is 8:25. NOT 10:25. Did I mention that it was like 7:30 already?!?!?!?!?!? And we had a sick kid?!?!?!?

We got to the airport at at 7:45 for an international flight at 8:25. Nathaniel booked it for the check in counter, while I wrangled all the bags and the children.

We got checked in and raced through security. At which point my purse got picked for security because it had a bullet casing in it.

Remember when I said that you could fire an AK47 at the Cu Chi tunnels? Well, Nathaniel did. So I had ONE bullet casing in my purse. Which had flown with me from Saigon, to Hoi An, to Hanoi and now. NOW it was a problem. Do you know where in my purse it was? Cause I sure as hell didn’t. Everyone else ran for the plane while I dumped my entire purse, my purse that had been through 2 weeks of travel through third world countries, out on the security table. Still, no casing. Finally I took my purse, turned it upside down and shook it in the air. Coins, wrappers, hard candies, toilet paper (third world countries) and other various random items fell into the bin. AND THERE! CASING!!!

I grabbed the most important items, my wallet, iPad, 2 out of the 3 train cards (Sorry Rosie, I’ll get you a new one) and RAN for the plane. Our plane took off at 8:17 with us comfortably on board. THANK THE DEAR HEAVENS.

So on this trip we lost:

1 iPhone

1 Camera lens hood thingie

1 Lexus branded cover up

1 Manaca card for riding the train

A lot of toilet paper.

But we gained priceless memories. Like the time Nathaniel thought our flight was at 10:25 and it wasn’t.

Hanoi to Home

As we left Hoi An, poor Isaac came down with a fever a cough. I will say was a total trooper. I didn’t have any medicine with us except adult Motrin. I googled the dosage and we were able to keep his fever under control until we got home. Thank goodness. His cough is pretty gnarly though. And he was really really good about it. I know he felt like crap but he managed to keep up with us!

Our flight from Hoi An to Hanoi was delayed (I COULD HAVE SLEPT LONGER!) but we eventually made it to the Hanoian Hotel which was AMAZING. Nathaniel got us a wonderful, 2 floor room so we had our own little slice of heaven without 2 kids yapping in our ears! However, I’m pretty sure Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam) was the loudest, craziest of the places we visited! I literally (like ACTUALLY LITERALLY) had heart palpitations trying to maneuver the kiddos through the traffic on the streets to take us to the Water Puppet Theatre show. WHICH WAS AMAZING.

This is an art form created by farmers during the flood for entertainment. It was REALLY spectacular. This is the most famous of all of the water puppet theatres, and it was easy to see why!

We had dinner at an AMAZING French/Vietnamese Fusion restaurant. It was high end and the food and service was amazing!

I seriously loved all of the food on this trip. So TASTY.

We saw Hanoi by night, which was pretty beautiful and then called it a night.

Out last day of the trip, we drugged up Isaac and hit Hanoi hard!

We visited the city’s largest whoelsale market, which was basically a giant fire hazard. I mean, super fun and we got ourselves some good souveneirs for cheap but OMG. I was hyperventaliating.

We took ourselves on a little walking tour to see some of the beauty and colors.

After that was the Temple of Literature which was phenomenal.

Then we got scammed by a taxi driver on our way to see more sights. Nathaniel was PISSED.

We walked past Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. Which was creepy.

We saw a couple other pretty places that by this point in the trip I had no idea what they were. . .

We went and got more massages. Isaac had a hot stone foot massage. Seriously he’s addicted now! My bad.

And just like that, our tour of Southeast Asia came to a close. Trust me when I tell you that the excitement did NOT end there. Stay tuned to learn how the Maduras pulled a Home Alone.

Hello from Hoi An!

After Saigon we moved on to Hoi An. It was further north, and cooler but also rainy.

We stayed at the Dai An Villa which is absolutely beautiful!!! All of the places we stayed on this trip had wonderful breakfasts included in the rate too, which was nice. We were close to the beach which is another wonderful bonus!

We visited the “old town” and took in a performance.

The old town has lots of lanterns all over and it is so beautiful in the day and even more gorgeous at night.

We saw a couple getting beautiful wedding shots.

The area was really lovely, but this may have been the place with the pushiest of street vendors. They were selling everything from “authentic” hats, to boat rides, to weird light up mice. And “no” was in not in their vocabulary. Poor Isaac is so sweet and innocent he kept saying “No thank you!” Over and over. But he’s also adorable, so they just keep talking to him. He had a tough time just walking away from them. I feel like “no thank you!” Once is enough. After that, if you keep begging me, I’ll just ignore you. I’m not rude about it, I usually try to engage in a conversation with someone else “oh! Look at the dog Rosie” “Isaac, stay with Dad!” “Has anyone seen my hat?” etc. But it was really hard on Isaac.

We ate dinner at this adorable tiny hole in the wall that had the most delicious iced tea concoction I’ve ever had. Rosie had to use the WC so we wandered through their kitchen to it. People, I Don’t have photos but they were sitting on the floor of the kitchen washing the dishes by hand. I almost died. But I assure you now 5 days later, we didn’t even get sick from it. But I had a really hard time eating the food. I told my friend Jenny and she said “All the kitchens look like that and you’ve been fine” SO I powered through.

And now. The tale of the phone. I know some of you have been waiting.

We took a taxi back to the hotel. When we got in, Isaac’s seat belt was funky. (I’ll write a post later about how my standards for travel have changed dramatically!) So I took out my phone to use the flashlight. After that, I put it back in my purse because it didn’t have service in any of the countries we were visiting. (It was in airplane mode, more on that in another post too!) I couldn’t use it while we were in a taxi. However, when we got back to the hotel, I pulled my wallet out to give Nathaniel some money and my phone must have fallen out. I realized quite quickly back in the room that I didn’t have it (because I wanted to use wifi on it) and we spoke to the gentlemen that run the hotel (WHO ARE AMAZING!). They tracked down the cab who “didn’t have it”. Now I’m not trying to be a dick, but it was 100% for sure in that cab. We checked the street and it clearly didn’t fall out in the street. So either the cabbie took it or the next fare took it. Either way, it’s gone. And YES, I know I should have made sure it didn’t fall out, but you’d be amazed at how rarely you reach for your phone when you can’t use it. So chalk this up to a lesson learned.

I put it in lost mode right away in Find my iPhone but no one turned it in, so eventually I had to erase it and cut my losses. Nathaniel was so nice about it. If he had lost his phone, I would be SUPER pissed. But again, it is what it is. I mean, I’m pissed but nothing I can do now.

The next morning we went to My Son which means “beautiful mountain” and it was! It’s a small area of Hindu Temple ruins fro around the same time as Angkor Wat was constructed.

Then it started raining.

Someone was NOT amused. She also fell on her butt. Twice. I wonder where she gets that from??? Also check out my hilariously adorable watermelon hat. Don’t worry, later I got matching pants.

There were piggies!

We were driven back and had lunch by the sea. It was amazing. I had a lot of drinks. A LOT.

There is no drinking age in Vietnam so Isaac got a sip. (Rosie didn’t want one after she tried my margarita the other night)

That’s a tequila sunrise we’re drinking. Since we were on the beach the kids really wanted Nathaniel and I get to “Sex on the Beach” and they thought this was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. I can’t wait to tell them that story when their older and understand it better.

And that was it for Hoi An. We learned some, we ate a lot, and we lost a phone.

Miss Saigon

GONNA GET REAL HERE FOLKS

My parents are of an age where the Vietnam war had a HUGE impact on their daily lives. They knew so many of their peers who went overseas to fight a war they didn’t believe in. They saw a draft, and participated in the protests. They knew so many who died.

I have, what I would like to call, PTSD by proxy. The Vietnam war icks me out in a way I can’t really put into words. I didn’t live through it, but I grew up feeling like it was such a taboo subject, full of guilt, embarrassment and fear. (MOM, this is not a reflection on you!). Learning about it from the Vietnamese point of view was really life changing. (ALSO MOM, You can skip this post if you want)

First, I was VERY naive about the war. I understood that there was a civil war in Vietnam and for reasons not clear to most, the US got involved. I know that North Vietnam was bad, South Vietnam was good. But I grew up thinking words like “Saigon” and “Vietcong” were racist, and not to be said. I don’t know what made me feel that way, but that’s how I saw life.

Our tour guide “Zed” explained that in South Vietnam people still wish that the South had won. They won’t say “Ho Chi Minh City” because they don’t want to say the name of a communist. They call it Saigon, the name it was given as the capital. They deplore what the Vietcong did, but that does NOT make what the US did ok. And really, seeing the tunnels that the VC dug, and knowing that our people; our uncles, fathers, grandfathers etc. pumped gas into tunnels to kill them sickens me. SICKENS ME.

There is also a firing range at the memorial, where people can purchase ammo and fire AK47 and machine guns. So here you are, standing in a forest where parts have been wiped away by Agent Orange, hearing the sound of gunshots blasting through the air will make the hairs on your arms stand up.

Anyway, without further adieu, here are the photos from that part of our morning.

^^ This is the roof of a bunker. However, the roofs during the war were flat so as to be concealed.

Below you see rock that covers a ventilation hole. They blended in like termite nests so the US walked right past them. Til they didn’t.

Isaac was small enough to fit in an original tunnel. They were 20cm by 40cm or something like that that was ridiculously small. The VC crouched and ran through these tunnels through a spiderweb like maze for kilometers!

And just like that, Isaac disappears!

This was a trap used by the Vietcong for trapping animals, and eventually soldiers.

These tunnels have been made slightly larger (although still horrifyingly small!) for visitors.

^^These are sandals, made from tires. They take about 20 minutes to make one pair and they last for up to 3 years in the jungles. The VC would wear them backwards to leave misleading footprints.

SO there. That was horrifying.

After lunch we took a tour down the Making Delta. We got to see some traditional homes and dances. It was a sight

We got off this row boat and the woman said “BYE BYE!” And made the “give me money” thumb and forefinger gesture. OH. We’ll I guess we’ll tip then,

And just like that, our time in Saigon was done! It was a great place to ring in 2018 and learn about our past.

Good Morning Vietnam!

On New Year’s Eve we said “goodbye” to Cambodia and flew to Ho Chi Minh City. I thought the traffic in Cambodia and Thailand was crazy, but in Vietnam it’s about the same volume, just moving a LOT faster! And they use their horns. A LOT. My friend Jenny, who is distinctly NOT Japanese would fit right in 😉

We hit the hotel, Hong Vina Luxury hotel. I’ll tell about Rosie’s reaction to the name in another post where I recap the funny and ridiculous things that my children said on this trip. After we dropped our bags we went around the corner to the Secret House restaurant which was LOVELY. We got to sit outside in a beautiful courtyard and enjoy our first Vietnamese meal, which was delicious. Sorry friends, those photos are also gone.

After lunch, I headed back to the hotel for a well deserved nap. I didn’t get to fully recover my illness before we left on this Southeast Asia tour, so I’m feeling pretty worn out. This was the first non-car or plane nap of the trip! AND IT WAS AMAZING.

Nathaniel lovingly took the kids and wandered nearby to check out some of the architectural sights he was interested in.

Roberta, this ones for you!

That evening we had dinner and drinks at La Fiesta Mexican restaurant. I know, I know, we’re in Vietnam. But we don’t have Mexican food in Japan and it’s our FAVORITE. La Fiesta is owned by Scott from Maine USA and features delicious Tex/Mex, free wifi and a clean bathroom! It was a hit for all of us.

After dinner we went to a Himalayan Salt spa. Isaac and I had 60 minute foot massages, while Nathaniel had a full body hot stone massage next to us and Rosie sat quietly for an hour. AN HOUR. SHE SAT FOR AN HOUR SILENTLY. Seriously, I don’t know what is in the Himalayan salt, but SIGN ME UP.

We watched the city go wild from our giant picture window and kissed Happy New Year to 2018 and called it a night. Happy New Year to you and your’s, wherever you may be!

3 Days in Cambodia (Day 3)

This might have been my favorite of the temples we saw in Angkor Wat!

We had a new guide this day named Van (pounded like Juan with a V) Again, we ate tasty breakfast and this was the day I realized that laundry mat next door named The Missing Sock Cafe was actually a Landry mat AND cafe which had AMAZING COFFEE! Highly recommend if you end up in Siem Reap *which I would also highly recommend!

We opted to drive farther out this day to visit a temple made with a different color of sandstone. For me, part of the fun of this temple was the 60km in the car, winding through villages and seeing the country side. I told Nathaniel later that if we had more time, i would have been content to ride around in car all day, stopping when we wanted to take a closer look at something. We got a really good feeling of how most people in Cambodia live. They don’t have running water in most of their homes because it costs them more money, so they have dug wells and carry water to their homes each morning. Older children mind younger children while their parents set up little shops in front of their homes. Dogs and chickens and cows and water buffalo line the landscape filled with rice patties. It’s stunning.

So onward we went to Bantea Srei, or the Ladies’ Temple because it’s beauty is compared to that of ladies’. Van clarified that they meant young ladies, not old ladies. I assume he was including me in the beautiful young ladies. Ahem.

We enjoyed another performance by a band, and were amazed by a guy who played entire tunes on reed.

We ate lunch at a stunning little hideaway next to a wetland. The area was beautiful and the food was amazing!!!

Unfortunately all of the food phots are on my phone which has gone missing/stolen in Vietnam but you’ll have to wait to read about that!

After lunch, we made the decision to stop at the Land Mine Museum. This was a hard choice for me to make because I was afraid it would be terrifying and awful, and yeah it was some of that. But it was also in a way, uplifting. The museum and it’s cause were founded by Aki Ra who fought as a child soldier with the Khmer Rouge (because he had no choice) until he defected to the Cambodian army. After the war was over, he saw families destroyed by the thousands of unexplored land mines scattered across their nation and he learned to disarm them by hand!! Eventually there became an international standard for deactivating the bombs (by exploding them in place) and he had to discontinue his efforts until he could be certified in the new way, but he did certify and continued to help rid their land of the devices. He also founded the museum, a relief effort and center to help care for children who were harmed by the mines. As the need for services for victims of land mines THANKFULLY has decreased over the years, his center now is home to children with various physical disabilities. They receive a full education through public school as well as tutoring at the residential center. They are also given English lessons and when they graduate they are given scholarships to attend university. It was a very compelling visit.

In case you were wondering, what happened in Cambodia is now happening in Syria. Wrap your head around that. This is not ancient history. This is current events. My heart is heavy with a lot of what we’ve seen.

Deep breaths.

After another breathtaking drive through the countryside,

We stopped at our last 2 temples for Cambodia. These may have been my favorites, although it really is hard to decide. This is Neak Pean and Preah Khan.

That night we had dinner at the Siem Reap Brew Pub which was awesome. They had foosball and darts for the kids and great food and beer, as well as live music! The kids made friends with an adult dude and they were all laughing and having a blast. Sorry guys, those pictures are also on my phone!

Anyway, that’s Cambodia! It was a very successful leg of our trip. I learned so much and really enjoyed the people we met. If you are planning on visiting, please let me know and I will be happy to pass along our tour guides’ info!

3 Days in Cambodia (Day 2)

Day 2 was for sure our biggest day in Cambodia. We ate a delicious breakfast which was included with our room (although the coffee was SHIT! On day 3 we discovered the building next door was an adorable cafe) and then we were off with our guide named Phalla, pronounced “Paolo”. Phalla is a certified tour guide and a teacher at the college. He has a business degree and it himself through college waiting tables and working as a pool attendant at a hotel. He was so nice, and a great with our kids, especially Isaac who had eleventy billion things to say and questions to ask. I would HIGHLY recommend him. He couldn’t help us on Day 3 because he was going to a remote village to encourage kids to stay in school and show them it was possible to get an education and be successful.

Here’s something scary. Phalla graduated from high school the same year I did and when he was in Primary school, he could hear the gunfire from the war, and people he knew were killed fighting, right outside his village. So for him, that part of history was very real.

Anyway, on to Angkor Wat, or actually Angkor Thom is where we started. Angkor Thom was actually it’s own village measuring roughly 3 square kilometers and the reigning King actually lived there.

And in a world of craziness, Nathaniel ran into a guy who he knows from his work at UMTRI. So that’s random.

We saw how they used elephants to move the sandstone needed to build the temples. The elephants pulled all of it around from around 100KM away!

This is Phalla encouraging Rosie to try!

After lunch we went to Angkor Wat which was strictly a temple meant only for the royal family to use for worship.

Nathaniel and i were able to go to the top (the kids couldn’t because it’s not safe for kids under 12) and we were privileged to see monks learning and praying. It was a pretty awesome experience.

Look at that ^^^^^

And there were monkeys!

That evening we stumbled upon a cool cafe. Footprint Cafe (their website was up the other day and is now under construction, but their mission statement was pretty cool) is a cafe that is designed to give money back to the local community and offers fair working wages and learning opportunities. They have a library of used books available from donations (mainly from Cambridge University) that you can browse while you eat or you can buy. Isaac found some weird fantasy book that didn’t interest me but he’s already finished by the time you read this post! And Rosie picked out “Call the Midwife” because she loved the show and also wanted to deliver babies. Anywho, if you’re in Siem Reap, check it out.

That night after dinner, all 4 of us got our feet nibbled by fish.

I’d like to tell you it was gross. BUT IT WAS AMAZING. I almost fell asleep, I shit you not. It felt weird at first (their sign says “feels weird but good!”) but once the tickles went away, it felt so good. Nathaniel and Rosie were not impressed. However, most places it was $2 and you got a free beer (or soda) but this place was the same price and had FLUFFY PUPS TO PET. The choice was clear!

Nathaniel went out for a massage that didn’t involve seafood, and the kids and I went to bed. ONE MORE DAY in Cambodia to come!