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”:
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!
We threw a farewell party for Mina last night and invited her classmates and their families. She’s been going to school with some of them since they were two or three years old, so it was sad… Yet, she is ready to go off on her adventure. We take off in just over 10 days… The next week will be finishing work and school for us, and getting stuff ready to go.
When we got back home last night from the party, it was nearly midnight and starting to rain, and somebody rang our doorbell. It was a Grab (food delivery) rider who stopped to say he had seen a huge snake slithering into our neighbor’s yard (our neighbor doesn’t have a doorbell or a door accessible from the front street). The driver said maybe it was a boa, as thick around as his arm! I messaged our neighbor about it and went looking for it this morning, but didn’t see anything… I was kind of bummed because I’ve always wanted to see a wild boa here.
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.
It’s been ages since I posted Mina’s artwork since it’s mostly been going on her own website, but in the past couple of years she’s been drawing on a graphics tablet. Then a few months ago, work gave me an 8th Gen iPad, and I bought a knockoff iPencil and a Procreate license. And this is what’s grown from that:
I needed an art example for one of my presentation classes, and this is what she knocked out in (maybe) an hour while I was putting together the rest of the slideshow. Cool!
I’m currently in a state of being extremely busy juggling things like preparing for a new school term, managing a botched house extension, getting our main car repainted, moving a metric ton of dirt the workers we fired (from previously mentioned house extension job) left on the street in front of our house with the only Radio Flyer I’ve ever seen in Thailand, getting diphtheria/tetanus boosters because I gouged my leg on my rusty barbecue grill, replacing a temporary crown on my tooth with a permanent one, running around to every home improvement shop in town to find the correct angle grinder attachment/vinyl flooring sheets/ceiling hangers, etc.
Here is a shot of the best khao tom I’ve had all year, up in the mountains, on break from performing Okinawan music to Northeastern Thais.
Also, we miss Max and have decided not to bring him back on a repatriation flight to face 2 week quarantine by himself, and instead wait until we can go get him (intl flights are still not allowed into Thailand) safely.
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:
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.
I’m on a kick looking for BGM tonight, because I need to start writing chapters 4 & 5 of my master’s dissertation tomorrow. I will be aided by my trusty steed, Dragon Naturally Speaking and all of these badass beats. Sometimes Lofi radio on YouTube gets old…
And speaking of steeds, I’m planning selling my trusty CRF250M to help pay off Max’s upcoming trip to the states… Which looks likes it’s really gonna happen.
Actually, for the sauce, I added filtered fish sauce, tripled the amount of garlic, and used the good part of a rotting onion instead of going to the store to buy a fresh one, and it turned out really, really well.
I tried using a cast iron Lodge pan and an aluminum baking pan, and the latter was predictably much inferior to the former because the crust stuck to it pretty badly.
In Thailand, any cheese is expensive, and the one called for in the recipe is unavailable where we live, so we used a cheap pre-shredded mix. It was most excellent. The sweet Thai basil was also a great match.
Next time, I must find a bigger, better alternative to the baking pan.
The kids started playing Scrabble at school and wanted to practice, so I broke out one of the knockoff sets I found at Terminal 21 in Korat a few years ago in anticipation. Unfortunately, the tiles are too big for the spaces on the board and the whole thing is so cheaply made that it affects gameplay a bit. So I’ll probably buy a real board, or at least a better knockoff, in the near future.