Friday, February 23, 2018

Deki's Excellent Adventure

Well, Deki's adventure actually started about 1:30 in the morning on Sunday, February 11.  I got a call that he needed to go to the ER.  He had a lump on his stomach and it hurt and he wouldn't stop crying.  It turns out he has a hernia, the intestines were poking out through a hole in the muscle wall, and he wouldn't let them push it back in because it hurt so bad.  So they gave him a relaxant and pushed it back in.  If they hadn't been able to, they would have flown him up to Spokane for surgery that day.  The other reason it was good was because the last time Laurie rode a helicopter, she threw up.  But onward.

So we took him to a doctor, got a referral, and drove to Spokane for an afternoon appointment on the 21st.  I was a little miffed because they wouldn't schedule him for surgery the same day and save us a trip, but whatever.  So far he is having a good time:  Chicken nuggets for dinner in the car (well, one bite; the rest ended up on the floor), fries (most of those were actually eaten), some Gogurt and milk.  And we get to see Things On The Road, like Semi trucks.  (Marion is not so fond of those).  And the doctor's office has cars to drive!

Well, the doctor performs an examination, says Yes, indeedy, we need surgery, and the options are Thursday at 1, or Friday or Monday at 7:00 am.  So we opt for Friday the 23 -- and did we mention that you need to be there at 6:00 am? -- and drive home.  And we Make All Sorts of Arrangement by phone in the car.  Cool!  Isn't technology wonderful???

Then we hop back into the car Thursday evening and drive BACK to Spokane.  Now it is dark, which is way cooler according to Deki because he sees all sorts of lights and even more semi trucks.  And he gets to sleep in a bed with Mommy, who snores.  But that is OK.

Things start to develop a less than optimal feel when he is woken up at 5:15 in the morning and not fed.  Then he gets into a car which is really cold (The outside temperature is 10F.  (-12C).)  But the drive is basically one block, so it isn't too bad.  Grandma leaves to get more sleep. Then they Attach Things To Him and he has to leave Mommy.  Then he can't resist going to sleep.

When he wakes up, Things Are All Wrong.  His tummy hurts.  There is a big bracelet thingy on his arm that squeezes it. His hand is wrapped up and his finger glows red.  And he is hungry and thirsty.  So he gets apple juice and fish crackers, and the salt begins to sting his throat.  So he gets a popsicle and applesauce.  But his tummy still hurts, so the nurse gave him 2 doses of morphine.  Then he starts to feel better, and starts smiling.  And the nurse says we can all go home!  That sounds really good to him, except he is kind of having a hard time standing.  For some reason, having shoes on helps his attitude.  Especially because they are Spiderman shoes.  Then this big, one size fits all wheelchair arrives.

We all laugh, but the way he is curled up in it shows that, yes, he really does need this big a wheelchair!

Everything goes just swimmingly until about 20 miles outside of Spokane, when his tummy starts to hurt from the INSIDE.  He lets us know in that energy saving cry that all parents recognize could go on all night.  We find a rest area, Laurie takes him out of the car seat, walks him around, and within seconds, everything is better.  Laurie, who has had 4 c-sections, says it is because food is moving through the intestines and pushing out on the incision.  Just walking around helps to get things moving past the incision.  The outside temperature has warmed up to 22F (-6 C), so we bundle him back up into the car.  We stop in Ritzville for gas and coffee, and Grandma even buys him a hot (well, warm) chocolate.  And we are off again.

Sure enough, his tummy hurts again, and, 15 miles later, we pull off at the exit to Lind and walk him around.  It is even windier here, so he gets to wear Mommy's hat.   Grandma starts to add hours to the drive home.  But he falls asleep in the car this time, cuddling his hot chocolate.

This time he wakes up happy, disposes of the straw, and drinks the hot chocolate -- which is cold by now -- and gets it all over himself and his jacket and his blanket and everything.

And just minutes later he is home!  And Daddy is coming to get him!  And his brothers! And he can walk normally again!

The moral of the story:  chocolate makes everything better.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thai Traditional Culture

I spent one last day in Bangkok with Natcha, one of my students from 5 years ago.  She took me to a traditional market in Bangkok.  She made an observation that stands out:  "No one is speaking Thai here."  Then we went to a couple of malls, which might have been located in any U. S. city, except for everyone there (except me) was Thai.  (Actually, it could have been located in almost any country in the developed world, and quite a few in the undeveloped world.)

The Thai are going to the malls.  The malls look just like ours, even to the country store kiosk.  (Which was on the 5th floor of the mall.  Or maybe the 6th.  Or 4th.  Once you get inside, you lose track of which floor you are on, and how many basements there are.)

They wear western clothing (Only the tourists wear elephant pants.)  They build skyscrapers, and they are innovative in design.  They are buying cell phones (just like us.)  They ride trains and drive cars.  (Trains are easier.)

Well, there is one difference:  One cell phone company has huge advertisements in the train stations advertising that they take the best selfies.  Most U. S. advertising promotes like best service, most memory, ease of use, the quality of the camera in the phone...And did you notice that is in English, not Thai?

Are we contaminating Traditional Thai culture?  Even that statement is suspect...are we insisting that the Thai stay in their traditional culture, so we can experience it when we travel?  Shouldn't they choose how they want to dress and where they want to shop and what they want to be when they grow up?  Should we insist that they only eat Thai food?  I had a choice of food from all over the world in the malls.  (It was majority Asian.)

So I asked Natcha at dinner what Thai culture is now.  And she answered, after some thought:  Being polite and respectful.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

There is No Honking Here.

Traffic in Thailand is...amazing.  Or incredible.  One of my friends says it resembles a car race with hundreds of participants. But there is a politeness about it that defies description.

The concept of lanes is rather fluid; sometimes a two lane road can become a three lane road.  And if you need to stop to let people off, just do it.  Everyone will stop for you.  Or, more likely, create a new lane and go around.  When you have to merge, the lane markings are mere decoration; more than once I was looking at a complete jumble of cars that somehow sorted itself out.  However, if you continue to let people in front of you, you will come to a complete stop.  There is a certain polite aggressiveness that marks drivers.  There is also no honking.  I don't believe I saw Natcha or Bank (love some of these nicknames) ever get upset at being cutoff; they just went with the flow and proceeded to be a little more aggressive and got ahead of the next guy.

What we call "cutting people off" is a normal lane change to them.  (The skill of these drivers...) 

Then there are the motorcycles.  Hundreds of them. Here in the good old U.S. of A., they are treated as cars and have to pass properly (not cutting people off!) and stay in the lane, etc.  In Thailand, they can travel between cars (I saw it on the freeway once!), they travel in made up lanes, they travel on the sidewalk...I saw them travel in the wrong direction on a highway.  and not once did Natcha or Bank ever startle (like I did).

It has been said, that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots.  Here in Thailand, there are no old motorcyclists.  Just saying.  I did see the results of one accident; everything had been cleaned up but a pair of sandals in the road.

U-turns are ubiquitous.  These people, because there are no turns to cross traffic, will travel several blocks until there is a U-turn.  This consists of a gap in the cement curbing, and people waiting to turn around.  And people will stop and let them do this -- in the case of our tour bus, that meant several (if not all) lanes were blocked while we accomplished this; once or twice we had to back up and completely block traffic going BOTH ways.   And cloverleafs for freeway exits?  They don't exist.  If you want to exit across the freeway, you exit to a lane that goes up and over the freeway, turns around, then you join the freeway again going the other direction and exit the freeway again going the direction you originally wanted.  It takes less space.

And did I mention that they are driving on the wrong side of the street?  All my instincts, I've discovered, are for driving on the right!  More than once, Natcha would signal to turn left and then go in spite of what I saw was oncoming traffic!  But it wasn't.  And I hope I didn't startle her.

It is possible to walk across the street in the city.  You negotiate with the car in the first lane, and they may or may not stop for you.  If they do, go ahead and cross.  That lane only.  The next lane is more likely to stop, but not always.  Twice I did it with experienced street-crossers.  Once by myself.  I stood in the middle of a 4 lane street (which is not as wide as our 4 lane streets!) in Chiang Mai waiting for a car -- any car -- to let me go.  (Later I found a coffee shop on the same block as the hotel.)

Anyway, here is a toll road that they are waiting for money to complete.  MOST of it is usable.

I think this bus had about 30 people on it.

Taking the train is faster.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Toilets in Thailand

The one thing you should be ware of when traveling in Asia is the toilets.  It is not that they are dangerous, per se, but that many of them are holes in the floor, for which you must squat.  I used this kind of toilet in Taiwan 10 years ago, just to say I did.  I do NOT need to repeat this.

At least in Thailand, you can find signs that tell you this is an old lady bathroom:  you can sit.

Of course, this also means that Some People may not quite understand that you do not stand on a sit down toilet to squat...

And this is a "bring your own toilet paper" kind of country.  But they do have little hoses to wash you off.  Which, I would like to point out, is better than a bidet, because you squat for a bidet.  well, hover, but at my age that is the same as a squat.

And, on the lighter side, here are some cute bathroom signs

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kutna Hora, Czechia

My main reason for choosing a tour to Kutna Hora was timing.  I needed a half day tour, after 10 am, and this worked.  So I signed up, paid, and went.

It was actually quite interesting.  It was one of the richest towns in Bohemia because of the silver mines.  So rich that the local cathedral, Saint Barbora was one of the only cathedrals not built by royalty or nobility.  It was built by the miners, and so there are frescos and stained glass showing the work of the miners.  And here is a statue; the miner is dressed in white not reflecting piety or purity, but for a practical reason:  in order to see him better underground.

The town is, of course, picturesque.  And they bragged about their food.

But the real draw of the town is the Sedlec Ossuary.  I had never seen one before.  This was my first view:

My first thought:  This is way cool!  And I started taking pictures of it all.  Then I realized that these were actual people once, and it felt really macabre.  But here is the brief story.

Back in the crusades, 1278 to be exact, the abbot of the monastery brought back some dirt from Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified.  He sprinkled it in the cemetery and this made it a desirable place to be buried; people sent remains from all over central Europe. Various renovations and repairs and burials unearthed graves, and these people had to be reburied.  In all there are about 40,000 skeletons there, some estimates go up to 70,000.

There is a central chandelier, for which you must look elsewhere because my picture is out of focus, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body.

So...these arrangements were made as a way of honoring those people, not as mere decor.

Friday, September 08, 2017


Stephan and Merel told me this is the best theme park ever and were really excited about taking me there...even though I am old enough to be their grandmother.

So we went, because that is what grandmothers do.

These two pictures prove this is not your average everyday theme park.  The first is the entrance.  I never did find out what the second building was.

I am old, but to prove I am not quite decrepit, I did go on 2 roller coasters.

The first one was themed as a dragon fight.  Fortunately, it was raining (this is the Netherlands, after all) and we were not burned as we went by.  There were two roller coasters going at the same time, which I think also confused the dragon.

The second was the Flying Dutchman,  We waited in the docks for the boats, after passing through the buildings upstairs in the picture.  Don't ask me to tell the tale of the Flying Dutchman, it was all in...Dutch!

Fortunately, we all survived the encounter with the ghost ship and landed in the water.  Stephan had warned me not to sit on the edge of the boat, so I only got slightly wet.

I have decided that, by the time I go to the next theme park, I will be too decrepit to ride a roller coaster.  I prepared for this by electing to watch Stephan and Merel ride the scary one.

We got tickets to what Stephan described as a horse show.  Well, it did have horses.  It also had a tale of a kidnapped princess, a fire breathing dragon with 4 or 5 heads...Not all attractions had dragons.  There was a Dutch version of Disney's "small world," which, fortunately, had a tune that did not stick in your mind.  And an Arabian Nights display, a fairyland, overpriced food, everything you could want in a theme park.  Except Elephant Ears.  OK, back to the dragons.  And there were horses, so I guess you could call it a horse show.

And, as we were leaving, we found the headphones that would have given me the story in English.

All in all, a fun day.  Because that's what grandmothers do.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Netherlands....Again

At this stage of my life, it would seem prudent to go to as many different countries as possible before my back refuses to let me go on a plane for 10+ hours.  But that does not take into account the human is more fun to visit people than places.  I realized that a few years ago in Paris...I was there for the people, Paris itself was incidental.

So...back to the Netherlands.

This time I made an amazing discovery.  Who would think that, in the summer, in a country that is below sea level and filled with stagnant scum covered canals, that there would be mosquitos?  Add that to my list of stupid lessons learned.

Of yes, I was supposed to talk about people.  Well, I got to see Stephan again, and his parents, and his little sister, who is now 4.  And I met his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's parents.  So I met a bunch of neat people.

And they wanted me to have a true experience of the Netherlands, so they took me to Madurodam. This is a place with replicas of important Dutch buildings, like palaces, canals (complete with tour boats that are barely larger than the carp swimming in the canals), and the Mars candy factory (which will deliver a small candy bar for the cots of 10 cents) and Schiphol airport.  (Which is pronounced Skip pole, not Ship pole.)  Well, here is the building nicknamed the "Cookie Jar," and its replica, followed by a palace in Den Haag.

The coolest part, I think, was replicas of the storm control devices on the North Sea.  One of them you can operate yourself.  There are two types of people there...those that wanted to protect the cities and villages of the Netherlands from the storm surge, and those that wanted to see just how much flooding the villages could take.  (Fortunately, most of the Dutch were not of the latter type.)

Oh, and tulips are big in the Netherlands.

And here they are together.  Aren't they cute???

OK, so this post was about Buildings and what not, but it wouldn't have been so much fun without them!