Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fourteen Fantastic Years...Thanks, Babe

Today marks fourteen years since Mail and I were joined forever as husband and wife.  It would be foolish and untruthful to say that they have been fourteen years of pure bliss.  Of course there have been ups and downs; there must needs be an opposition in all things.  How do we know the sweet if we have not experienced the bitter? By my accounting, though, we've been blessed to experience much more of the sweet.

There is no other person on this planet that I would rather have by my side, however, throughout these past fourteen years than Mali and she is the one I want with me throughout eternity.  Her patience with me is endless and unconditional.  Mali has given me five beautiful children and made me a better man in more ways than she may ever know.


We were just kids, but doesn't she look fantastic?


Fourteen years later and she's even more beautiful than the day I married her.

Mali, I love you.  I truly am the luckiest man alive.  Here's looking forward to the next forty years.

Prom for Grown-ups

Last week the missus and I had the opportunity to participate in our very first embassy Marine Ball.  For those of you who don't know November 10 is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, and on that date the Marines celebrate the founding of the Corps.  In an embassy environment such as ours, where we have a Marine detachment, there is usually a Marine Ball on a weekend close to that date, and it's a big deal for a lot of folks.  As referenced in the post title, it's like prom for grown-ups.  Actually, some of the Marines in attendance are only a year or two removed from their own high school proms, and, well, let's just say that their dates looked somewhat less...refined than most others in attendance.  Now let me say that I mean in no way to soil the good name of the Marines--they do invaluable work in protecting the United States of America and they have my undying gratitude for their service and professionalism.  But those boys know how to party.

So, Mali and I joined in the fun along with the other folks in our neighborhood from the Embassy.  One definite of advantage of being in Bangkok is that you can easily get custom-made clothing.  Like most of the women around here, Mali went and got herself a custom ball-gown, and it was beautiful.  I offer the following photographic evidence:

Oh, and for those of you keeping track at home, yes, I am wearing a tuxedo.  Not only am I wearing a tuxedo, I am wearing my very own tuxedo, custom-made just for me.  And as good as I look, Mali looks even better.  She had her hair done professionally and a friend did her make-up, and she looked simply radiant.  Too bad she had to go to the ball with a dopey schmuck like me, but at least I cleaned up nice.

Now, from the pictures above you could be forgiven if you thought that were in any old place in the United States, so as proof that we did in fact attend the Marine Ball for Embassy Bangkok...

My sources tell me that the Asian Elvis is not Thai, but actually Filipino.  To bad we didn't get pictures of the Asian Johnny Cash and the Asian Tina Turner that were all there, all Filipinos, all singing their hearts out, and they were actually pretty good.  It wasn't necessarily the best music to dance to, but they were excellent performers.

Aside from the fact that we were sitting in Bangkok traffic for THREE HOURS waiting to get to the ball (thank goodness we were in the car with good friends and we actually had a lot of fun, despite sitting and not moving for long periods of times), and the fact that our food was not only an hour late getting to our table but I didn't get what I ordered (at least we ate before 1:30 AM), we had quite a fun evening talking and dancing.

Last weekend we weren't sure if we would go next year, but the further removed we are from the horrendous traffic and the late dinner and the long speeches, the more attractive it becomes to do it again.  Mali will get another stunning dress, and I'll use my tuxedo again.  And if we don't go, I can wear the tux for five weddings--provided I keep myself slim enough to fit into it over the next twenty years or so.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not-So-Tiny Bubbles

Our kids have always loved to blow bubbles.  I don't know how many discarded bubble bottles and bubble wands were strewn about the environs of our various homes.

Well, in the last week or so Ben has decided that he likes to blow bubbles.  I mean he really likes to blow bubbles.  He can spend literally hours out in our yard blowing bubbles.

You will notice that Ben is not using a bubble wand.  You can't tell from the picture, but he's not using commercial bubble soap, either.  Mali cooks up some of her super-special bubble juice using water and dish soap, which accounts for the industrial-strength bubbles he produces (he likes to catch the bubbles and play with them for a bit before they finally pop).  It also accounts for his very clean hands.

 Sarah gets into the action, too.

 Jane's not quite able to really blow bubbles; in fact, she ingests most of the bubble soap she gets on her hands.  But it doesn't stop her from enjoying being out there with her siblings.

Ben offers up his latest masterpiece...
(Actually, I include this one because I think Mali took a fantastic photo!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Like We've Never Experienced It

What kid doesn't just love Halloween?  Well, you can count me as one of those who has never really gotten into this holiday--and it has nothing to do with religious beliefs or the danger of accepting candy from complete strangers.  It's simply because I tend to be entirely too self-conscious about dressing up.  I know, it's silly.

But I don't let my own proclivities interfere with the enjoyment my spawn get from Halloween, especially since one of said offspring happens to have a birthday on that day.  The whole thing for us this year actually started on Friday--I took the day off from work because I had volunteered to be the Mystery Reader for Sarah's first-grade class (and naturally we read Halloween books).  As soon as the kids got back from school all of us except for Anne, who went to a middle school shin-dig of some sort (chaperoned, I'm sure), went downtown to the Embassy for their shin-dig of some sort (chaperoned, of course).  And just to set the tone, right as we pulled into the Embassy parking lot, Jane woke up and vomited all over herself.  Mali, being the prepared mother that she is, had a second costume for Jane, and we moved on as if nothing had happened.

The Embassy had games, some trick-or-treat alleys, and other stuff, as depicted in the pictures below.

Here's the gang, lining up to beg for candy!

For anyone who has ever wanted to make a mummy by wrapping themselves (or someone else) in toilet paper, this is what it looks like.

Jane really liked coloring more than anything else.

And what is Halloween without giant spiders?

But thank heaven for the fearless gecko (gratuitous reference to a previous post)!

No, Jane is NOT picking her least not this time.

Okay, so this is the 13th Halloween that Mali and I have experienced together.  Never once in those 13 Halloweens have we ever even come close to running out of candy.  As a matter of fact, I believe our record number of visitors is somewhere between 20 and 30 kids, the Halloween we were in our house in Martinez.

To give you a flavor for what we experienced this past weekend here in Thailand:

This was taken from right in front of our house (we live at the end of the street).  Now, imagine seven other streets, just like this, but some of them with even more people.  Now, imagine those streets looking like this, or worse, over the course of three hours.  That was Halloween night in our neighborhood.  Oh, and I have no idea who any of the people in this picture are, let alone the girl in the middle.

I know this photo isn't clear, but this is the main street outside of our neighborhood.  It is usually calm, serene, with very little traffic.  Some of our neighbors reported hearing that it took people over an hour to get from the expressway to our neighborhood (on a "bad" traffic day it can take fifteen, twenty minutes, tops).  People were coming from all over the greater Bangkok area to score goodies from our neighborhood.  I have no idea how many people actually came through our neighborhood, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit to learn that we had over a thousand.  We ran out of candy in about an hour, so I had the three older kids dump their bags into Mali's bowl so we could continue giving stuff to trick-or-treaters.  I'm so proud of the girls for doing that--they didn't like it, but they did it, and in the end they all ended up with a pretty good stash of candy.

And of course all Ben really wanted to do was play with the glow-stick.  I love that kid!  Happy Birthday, Moe!

One last note: for Halloweens past Mali and I were concerned that our kids would be warm enough in their costumes, even when we lived in California (we lived in northern California's East Bay, near Berkeley, and after living there for awhile your idea of what is "hot" and what is "cold" weather gets completely skewed).  Here in Thailand, however, we have exactly the opposite problem--we have to find costumes that are cool enough that the kids don't get drenched in their own perspiration.  All of the kids ended up shedding part or all of their costumes before they were done trick-or-treating because they were sweating like mad!

My Karma Just Ran Over My Dogma

Do you believe in karma?  Normally I would say that I do not, but it seems that I might need to adjust my thinking, in light of events after my brilliant post yesterday extolling the virtues of Bangkok traffic, wherein I virtually praised the city's vehicular movement, and I quote:
I find the way traffic here moves to be almost beautiful, when it's moving. (emphasis added)
That's right, today traffic was most definitely NOT moving.  I left work later than usual and had to catch a cab home.  After about fifteen minutes in the cab I dozed off.  When I came to, about ten minutes later, we were still on the same back street.  Normally it takes between five and ten minutes to get from the embassy to the expressway.  Today it took almost FORTY minutes.  It took two hours to get home, and that included the cab drivers deft maneuvering to get us out of the jam and onto an alternate route.  I tipped him generously, though; it could have easily been three hours.