Dreamliner Birthday

On our trip to the states last month, I had my first ever birthday on an airplane. It might have been my longest birthday ever because of the time difference (UTC +7 to UTC -7), although I didn’t even really think about it until a couple of flight attendants came up and started asking about my birthday – one in English, and one in Japanese. I was really surprised at first, but it ended up being very dope. Apparently, Nam had asked ANA to do something after Mina and I had checked in and went through the first security checkpoint at Suvarnabhumi. Mina knew about it since Nam had messaged her and she thought it was hilarious.

The dessert plate they brought me “from Business Class”:

The dinner that preceded it:

Mina and her soboro (ground chicken bowl) dinner:

All in all, a surprise birthday celebration on an ANA Dreamliner is a great way to chase away the boredom of a 10-12 hour intercontinental flight, and I highly recommend it!

Both Kids Now Studying Overseas

I didn’t post here for the entire trip and actually didn’t do a lot of things I normally do… Some of them I just may never do again. We have new priorities and our lives are in a state of flux – preparing for a big move back home, etc. – and we are living each day with the immediate goal of joining our family together again. Standing in our way is a long list of big things like selling our house, getting Nam’s green card, finding new jobs, and transitioning to new cultures and lifestyles again… Adventure awaits!

A Time to Remember

Max went to study for a few months in Washington state in spring of 2019. Nam took him there and came back. It was hard to watch him go and be away from him because we were such a close family – we ate almost every meal together since the kids were born (and they were almost all great meals). Well, three months turned into four and then six, and then pretty soon he wanted to be there for a whole year. We agreed to the extensions every time since he seemed to be having such a great time. And then the pandemic came.

We watched in horror as one of the first infection zones was discovered at an elderly care facility in Seattle, just a couple hours from where Max was, at my sister’s house. I knew I had a short period to go and pick him up and get him out of there before borders started closing. But. He was graduating elementary school the week I chose to get him, so I decided to let him attend that and not deprive him of saying goodbye to friends he had made over the past year. And so, the borders closed everywhere, and the window to get Max back was closed, for years.

Meanwhile, we endured living life without our boy here. It was lonely and we got used to that, and getting used to it also sucked. But guess what? Max got used to living in the states, and we had to deal with that. It turns out he got into a very progressive Project Based Learning middle school, was earning high school credits, and was even on track to receive a scholarship for college! Mina became interested in Max’s school. And so, we started making plans to apply for Nam’s green card and try living in the states for a while. Our plan was to get the green card sometime next year (there are no time guarantees and the various government agencies are all backlogged) and move over there in some fashion – a huge move, but it still gave us some time to prepare for everything.

So of course, everything got moved up. We found out that Mina had a chance to get into Max’s school that wouldn’t last very long, so we jumped at it.

Mina is unsure about going.

Mina wants to go.

Mina is going.

I will take Mina there and come back. Mina and Max will be together in the states until Nam gets her green card, and then we will follow after settling accounts here in Thailand.

The last three years have been hard without one child here.

The next year will be even harder without both here.

Khon Kaen, two months ago

It takes me so long to put things up on this blog these days. There’s posts I’ve been wanting to publish for more than a decade lol. Anyways, since another trip to Khon Kaen is coming up either tomorrow or this weekend, I wanted to put up some more photos of another back in August.

Artemis Archery, Khon Kaen
Mina getting lessons from the Thai Robin Hood
My favorite passenger seat pursuit is snapping photos all the way until we arrive.
Found a curry resto in Khon Kaen!
Oh lassi!
At KK airport dropping someone off, I think.

Heisei Arigato

Alt. view:

Apparently he just walked off when the boat docked.

That’s the Ebisubashi bridge (Nampabashi/Hikkakebashi) under the famous Glico neon sign, where I spent approximately 0.004% of my total time in Japan. If I remember correctly, that was just enough time for me or my friends to throw someone else off that bridge… Was it me? I was pretty OK at drunk judo… Was it Dave? Was it on TV? For the life of me, I can’t even remember the name of the guy we threw off… I remember he was a real ass, though.

Max, Into the Arms of America

Max is going to stay with my sis in Washington for a couple months. He’ll be there until the end of the last term of 2nd grade there to see what it’s like. We’ll see what happens from there, but anything is possible. We can uproot and move within a couple years, if that feels like the right thing to do.

We aren’t really keen on splitting up the family in different places while the kids are so young. But Max wants to go, and hasn’t wavered at all, even while playing with Mina for the last time in a while earlier tonight.

Meanwhile, my days are filled with keeping young kids happy and learning English for our summer project. Nam has been rushing to finish classes early (her uni’s term is different from mine or the kids’ school; we are on summer break) in order to take Max over and scope out Washington state. It’s been stressful.

Money is also tight, and we decided to gamble on a newer Chinese airline that has a modern fleet and is still unknown and variably rated online: Xiamen Air. Everything seemed to be going well, but the tickets were cheap and maybe there’s a reason for that.

First, it seems that Xiamen Airport (as opposed to other international airports in China) may require Thai nationals to get a transit visa even for a transit of less than 24 hours (staying inside the airport). However, the information on this is conflicting, and I had only read reports that it was actually no problem when bought the tickets. Now, on the eve of departure, we have read more reports stating the opposite… Nam will have to go all the way to BKK with Max tomorrow and ask the counter staff, since their website is useless, as is their service hotline.

Actually, the website is so useless, we can’t even check in online:


The kind of error that makes you want to break things more than they already are.

So, they are leaving our house from tomorrow morning on a great adventure! Mina and I will be guarding the home front and missing them. Nam will be gone for a few weeks, and Max for at least a couple months. We miss you already, boy!

UPDATE: Xiamen Air and inconsistent Chinese visa rules for Thai nationals completely screwed us. While most info on the internet, even from some official-ish sites, claim that Thais can get through Xiamen Airport on transit without a visa, according to the Chinese embassy in Thailand as well as Xiamen Air head office in China said that Nam would not be allowed on the flight at Suvarnabhumi without a ~$140 transit visa or tourist visa (which cost the same, with the transit visa offering no benefits whatsoever, so you might as well get a tourist visa).

While I should have looked this up more thoroughly before buying the tickets, we were just too busy. It’s hard to believe that the travel agency (SmartFares) or the airline itself (Xiamen Airlines) collect your passport information yet allow many Thai nationals fall into this trap (again, applicable to only some of the airports in China) every month, according to the helpful girl on their help line. It was not nice finding this out on their eve of departure, but it was better than them getting turned back at the airline counter at BKK I suppose. There are some reports that paying bribes can help you get out of this ridiculous visa conundrum, sometimes facilitated by the airline staff in China but usually taking several hours and entailing lengthy questioning and missing your original transit flight. We ended up having to book new flights (not through SmartFares ever again, just on principle), this time through Hong Kong Air, which was completely fine because according to Nam, both their airplanes and HK airport are very nice, and because Thais DON’T NEED A VISA FOR SHORT TRANSIT THROUGH HONG KONG AIRPORT, UNLIKE XIAMEN AIRPORT AND OTHERS.

The moral of this story is: BEWARE OF XIAMEN AIR (it rhymes!), BEWARE OF SMARTFARES, BEWARE OF STUPID CHINESE VISA RULES. They are acting in concert to squeeze you for every last dollar.

That is all.

When you go out in the woods…

… And have that realization that, hey, I could die out here! It’s kind of linked to the first time my life flashed before my eyes. I was on Catalina with my aunt and cousin’s church group. We went on a hike all the way up the coast one side of the island and by the time we had to turn and go back, we were all getting a bit thirsty.

We knew there was a small store just up the hill toward the center of the island, so we tried to climb up directly instead of walking all the way back on the rocky beach and then doubling back after going up the more gradual slope there. About halfway through the steep climb, the “hill” turned into cliffs, and everyone else gave up and started hoofing it back down the coast. As the last member of the group disappeared down the hill, I decided to push on by climbing the cliff.

About twenty-five feet up, the outcroppings started crumbling under my feet. Still I pressed on. I started losing grip strength from climbing for so long, and got stuck in an extended position with nowhere to advance for what seemed like hours… I was stuck there, sweating and wondering why I’d been so stupid and tried climbing by myself in the first place, and I wondered why everybody was so selfish and had not come back to look for me. I wondered what would happen if I fell from that height, pictured everyone being so sad for having left me… When I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I gathered my remaining strength and found a new way up (it still hadn’t occurred to adolescent me to go back down).

Finally, I got to the top of the cliff and a wave of relief physically passed over me. The long, thirsty grass covering the island was a welcome sight, and the slight breeze blowing over the tops cooled my face. I could see the dirt road to the general store just in front of me… Wouldn’t it feel great to get there first and to be sipping on a soda when the group arrived and everyone asked me how I got there so quickly!

And then I realized I couldn’t pull myself up over the top. I didn’t have the leverage, and there were no more footholds. The grass I was holding onto was pulling out of the crumbly ground, and throwing one leg over the top was an all-or-nothing proposition. In my mind, it always ended in nothing. I started to cramp up in the position I was holding, so I made one of those important life decisions, and decided to climb back down. It took just as long as climbing up, and I thought I would fall many times. Getting back down safely, though, felt hardly as good as getting to the top had felt. No breeze on my face. No imagined bragging rights.

When I walked all the back down the coast, up the more gradual slope there, and all the way back to the general store, everybody asked where the hell I’d been and why it had taken me so long to get there. They looked happy sipping on their Cokes and laughed at my dirtied up clothes. Nobody believed that I’d climbed the cliffs to the top or that I’d been in danger. I totally understood why – I wouldn’t have believed a story like that, either.

You are legend?

Rachada has never been this dark or curry-free.

It’s the Friday night before a four day weekend, and the streets of Bangkok are uncrowded. It feels like a dream. I’ve come back from our trip to Pattaya with my coworkers, Teera and Kwang, in their Almera.

We’ve just checked into a hotel on Rachada soi 20, and will go out exploring the empty city in a while. I’m looking forward to not feeling crowded in this city for once.

The Best Braised Pork Leg in Issan

Google review of Panom Rung Restaurant by Justin Yoshida

https://goo.gl/maps/cShnNWMJMcu

Staring locals. Scary truckers in the dark, broken parking lot… Raw chili and garlic in a dirty center bowl. Unapologetically fatty pork. Best of all, it’s sandwiched between a second rank gas station restroom and minimart. Need I say more?

It’s an epic hole in the wall.

Jet lag, Brain lag, everywhere a lag lag

We just got back from an epic trip back home to the states where I officiated my baby sister’s wedding, reunited with whole gaggle of relatives (some of whom I hadn’t seen for decades), and took the kids to Disneyland for their first time (thanks dad and Vangie!) the day before we left. It was basically a day and a half by planes and a bus (including a 1.5 hour stopover in Incheon and a brief respite in the Lad Prao area of Bangkok at our relatives’ place), and jet lag/exhaustion has hit all of us hard. I nearly went out of my mind for the past couple hours by accidentally enabling this setting on my phone:

Settings -> Developer Options -> Force RTL Layout direction

It will be fun to prank someone with this in the future; it’s incredibly irritating and nearly impossible to Google an answer. It basically reverses the order of everything in the Android taskbar (clock on the left, status notifications on the right) and justifies all text on screen to the right (and with that description, this page may now become the first hit for people who accidentally enable this setting).