Saturday, August 22, 2009

Help me, I think I've lost my wife!

Last night Mali and I went to the local mall--our first date night in Thailand! First of all, let me tell you how much the Thais love their malls, and this one is huge. It's got seven floors! And the food choices, oh my goodness. I'm pretty sure that fully half of the 100 or so restaurants in this mall are Japanese food. And with scores of choices, we ate at KFC. But let me tell you, the KFC here has a kick, and I like it.

But I digress.

Mali and I were in Central--take of the department store of your choice; Macy's, Nordstroms, or Bloomingdales. Then put that department store on steroids. That is Central. Mali was in Central shopping for girlie stuff, so I wandered out the door to go look at one of the more manly shops, namely a couple of places that sell soccer shoes.

After a bit I went back into Central to find Mali, and I had a really difficult time locating her in the store. For perhaps the first time in our married life I could not fall back on my tried-and-true method for hunting her down in any public place: look for the Asian lady just under five-foot-four.

My problem: in the womens department at Central in Thailand, almost all of the people there are Asian ladies under five-foot-four. So I had to switch to Plan B, which I have had occasion to utilize a few times in California and Virginia.

I had to look for the smoking hot Asian lady just under five-foot-four.

I found her almost immediately.

On the other hand, Mali said that it was very easy to spot me.

I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday

A truth of which I was already keenly aware has been driven forcefully home since moving to Thailand: I like hamburgers. I mean I really like hamburgers. When we lived in California I ate at In-N-Out, pretty much on a weekly basis (Double-Double, Animal Style; french fries; large chocolate shake...*burp*). Well, we've been here for a month now, and I'm totally craving

For those of you who don't know, Five Guys is a burger joint that started in Alexandria, Virginia, that has recently franchised across the United States and is gaining an ardent following; but for many years it has been pretty darn popular back East. For the last three years I frequented Five Guys at least once a week. Lunches with coworkers, kicking back with a juicy burger after a hard day rock climbing, or pounding fries and root beer just before the Saturday night priesthood session of General Conference, there's never really a bad time for Five Guys in my world. We even met up with friends from Ethiopia at the Five Guys in West Valley, Utah before we moved. Friendships were renewed, fries were shared, and ketchup was spilled.

Five Guys was actually instrumental in helping our children face the myriad inoculations required for our overseas move. It usually went something like this.

Kid: [in a loud, panicky voice] I'm scared! I hate shots! I don't want to get any more shots!

Me: [in my best reasonable voice] If you don't get shots you can't go with us to Thailand...

Kid: That's fine, I'll stay with [insert random friend/family member name here].

Me: Okay, I was only joking. You have to go with us to Thailand, so you have to get the shots.

Kid: NOOOOOOOoooooooooooo... (it trails off as they try to run out the door)

Me: If you're good, we'll go to Five Guys for lunch...

Kid: [silence]

One of the funniest parts of being in Palmyra, New York the week before we moved from Virginia was the reaction to my Five Guys t-shirt (as seen in the family picture at the start of this blog). Mali bought me the shirt for my birthday, and it was a huge hit, a great conversation starter with a lot of the people we saw. Everyone assumed that I was from their area—Rochester, Philadelphia, Richmond, etc.—and it seemed that very few of them were aware that you could buy a Five Guys shirt. Nothing like free advertising for great food, eh? The only other shirt that I’ve gotten similar reactions to is the shirt I have from Zachary’s Pizza in Albany, California, but that one is so local to the East Bay that it doesn’t get quite the same reaction in as many places as the Five Guys shirt does. I will say, however, that Zachary's is to pizza as Five Guys is to burgers. Mull that one over for a bit.

For the record, I still love

and I refuse to be dragged into any petty debates about which one is better. Brave men and women have sacrificed so that we may all enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of a delicious hamburger wherever you live in the great United States and I for one refuse to dishonor those heroes. But if I were to be tied to an anthill and my ears smeared with jam unless I picked between the two, Mali and I both agree that although we like the fries at Five Guys better, In-N-Out wins by virtue of having milkshakes.

Oddly enough, in the month since leaving behind my beloved American hamburger joints, I seem to have lost about five pounds...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mali weighs in on Thailand

(This comes from an e-mail Mali sent to a friend in Virginia. That friend said Mali's e-mail would make a perfect blog post, so of course I jumped on that. So here, with some minor editing, are Mali's first written observations about being in Thailand. I added a few comments, in blue, just to clarify a few things.)

Bangkok is fun. I think you would like living in our embassy housing area. It feels like a village. We are a part of this expat community and we feel right at home already (we live in a planned expatriate community, centered around the International School of Bangkok. Our housing complex consists almost entirely of Americans). Our neighbors are nice and have offered to take us places since we do not have a car yet. Church members are nice and helpful too. There are a lot of LDS people from the embassy downtown, but I feel we made the right move in living away from downtown Bangkok.

We can walk anywhere here (within the community). The school is just up the street, closer than Bonnie Brae was (Bonnie Brae is the school the kids went to in Virginia, it was less than half-a-mile from our house). The pool is right down the driveway and is kid friendly. Yes it is hot and humid but we are dealing with it ok.

The poverty is pretty evident everywhere we go. But it seems like they have enough to eat and are ok with what they have. It is all they know. It makes me sad just to see this family that lives on the other side of the fence of the school, knowing that they will probably never get out of their situation. Their house is made of old windows and scraps of metal. I was walking one morning and I heard a baby crying from that house and felt so helpless.

The government does not help these poor people. We have the welfare system in America, and these Thais have nothing (Bankok has a population of just over 8 million registered residents. Most experts estimate that accounting for unregistered immigrants from Thailand's rural regions the total population is actually closer to 15 million). Bangkok is definitely a city of contrasts. Our embassy housing is in the middle of these metal shacks. Outside you see kids not having any clothes on and then you come through our gates and you see kids riding their bikes, hanging out, looking clean and happy.

All is well. I really like it here. Wish you all can be here too and experience this together!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Uh, honey, I think I killed BOB...

It's horrible, absolutely horrible. I think I killed BOB. Since adopting him last summer, BOB has been just about everywhere with us: picnics, the park, the swimming pool, the Indiana Sand Dunes, Kirtland, Palmyra, innumerable trips to Costco, church--you get the picture. BOB is a member of our family, our sixth child almost, our erstwhile packhorse, and my running companion.

BOB is our stroller.

For those of you unfamiliar with the wonder that is the BOB, it is a heavy-duty, smooth-rolling double-stroller that is just as comfortable cruising through the cavernous aisles at the local bulk-goods retailer as it is lulling my two youngest children to sleep while I go on any run longer than 30 minutes (I know for a fact that 30 minutes is the minimum, because this morning I went for a 29 minute and 39 second run with Jane, and she stayed awake the entire time, but I'm positive that she was a mere 21 seconds from blissful slumber). There is in fact a BOB stroller gang in and around Fairfax, Virginia--ladies, you know who you are--and heaven help the poor soul who tries to wrest the stroller from the hands of these devotees (I've heard that next Christmas they might be getting matching leather jackets). The BOB is, in my humble opinion, the best jogging stroller out there--and trust me, I've used at least four different kinds of two-seat jogging strollers, so I feel that at least Fox News could put me on a news program as a double-jogging-stroller expert with unassailable credentials. Bring on Glenn Beck, James Carville, Rush Limbaugh, or those ladies from The View; none of them can touch me when it comes to the finer points of this particular mode of transportation. Our family would throw our jackets or coats onto the stroller as we tooled around various stores or museums, and we've used it to get things from the car to the picnic tables at the park, so it's been incredibly useful. And did I mention that it rolls smooth, like butter?

My fondness for the BOB, however, pales in comparison to how much Mali loves this three-wheeled piece of stroller heaven from Boise, Idaho. When we moved to Thailand we were given an allotment of 1,000 pounds for things that would be shipped via air freight, thus getting to us in a matter of a couple of weeks vice the two months for the bulk of our possessions that are coming by sea. Mali deemed the BOB so important, so essential to our family's well-being, that she put it into our air freight, ahead of other things like pots and pans, linens, and extra underwear. She actually wanted to take it with us on the plane, but it's too big (32 pounds) and bulky--it won't fit through the airport's carry-on scanner--and the airlines won't gate-check it. When our air freight was delivered last Saturday the first thing Mali wanted to get out of the boxes was the stroller. I only have six dress shirts and a handful of neckties to wear to work, but Mali has her BOB--and as far as I'm concerned, that's okay.

So perhaps now you might have a teensy bit more appreciation for the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach when, as we got home from swimming today at about 12:30 (today is a public holiday in Thailand--the Queen's birthday and Mother's Day), I was pulling Jane and Benjamin up the front steps of our house and there was a grotesque"POP!" the back end of the BOB collapsed, and some glistening black cylinders rolled out from either side of the stroller. Let me say that neither Ben nor Jane were harmed, thank heaven. We quickly got all the kids inside and away from the carnage, and then I went back outside to the half-folded frame of our beloved BOB, fearing the absolute worst.

My examination revealed that the shock assembly had pulled apart (yes, my stroller has shocks--you got a problem with that?). The black cylinders were the rubber dampers that sit inside the shock springs, and they were covered with grease. Initially it looked to me like the screws holding the shocks had pulled through the plastic housing, the result of repeatedly pulling the stroller up the steps on the way to school (in Virginia) with two kids sitting in it. I left BOB's carcass laying in the shade of the carport and went inside to check online and see if I could order new shocks, which I happily discovered I can, from a company in Weed, California (I really just wanted to work Weed into this posting somehow--we've driven through Weed a couple of times on our way to Portland. It's a quaint mountain town along I-5 in northern California that just doesn't get a whole lotta love).

About half an hour later, after the kids had lunch and Mali had gone off to do some grocery shopping, I went back outside to look at the BOB again and see what might be done, short of putting him down and selling him to a glue factory. Closer inspection revealed that the plastic had not actually broken, but it had taken a some stress. I pulled out all the screws and put the shock assembly back together, but I gave the lower part a one quarter turn, so the holes were not lined up with the same ones they originally had been, and I reinserted the screws. Voila! Eureka! Shazzbot! I believe we are back in business! I do herefore promise, however, that I will not pull the BOB up any stairs while both kids are sitting in it. Benjamin will have to get out and climb the steps himself.

If not, there's always Weed, California.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Obligatory First Blog Post

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally launched our family blog, officially joining the web world's way of sharing way too much information. I wanted to call it "The Soderblog" but that name was already taken. "Soderblogger" reminds me of a video game, and given our current location and the need to dodge traffic, it might be more appropriate than I had first envisioned. And let's be honest, of all the many derivations of Soderborg that I heard growing up, "Soderblogger" was never one of them.

If you came here looking for exciting YouTube videos showing amazing, death-defying stunts, or recipes for the world's most delicious dutch oven cobbler I'm afraid you might be sorely disappointed (although I actually do have a really good peach cobbler recipe that I might share, if my mom says it's okay). On the other hand, if you want to know what's going on in with this segment of the Soderborg family as viewed by the titular leader (everyone knows Mali's really in charge, she just lets me think I am) of this unruly mob, then, to paraphrase Brigham Young, "this is the right place, read on."

I will not guarantee any kind of regular updates, but check in every once in awhile and there could be something here that you might find of interest.