Mar 29, 2011

Two Months On: Kids Progress Report

We’ve been on the road now for just over 2 months—wow, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been that long!  We are now in our 4th country, Cambodia, which is new territory for all of us. We’re still continuing to travel well, at the same time we’ve had old issues resolved, new ones come up, and some on-going ones that we still tackle. 

We thought it would take the girls longer to adjust to the concept of changing locations regularly.  Although we try to avoid it, sometimes we are only in our accommodation for 1 night.  The girls now regularly and matter-of-factly ask whether we are ‘changing houses again’.  They don’t seem disturbed by it regardless of the answer.  When in the accommodation, they just accept the new surroundings easily and without question.  We do find that 4 days is a good minimum to be in 1 place, giving us a chance to explore yet also have rest.

We usually travel using local transportation modes.  We’ve used LRT (light rapid rail), tuk tuks, bicycles, sawbgthaew (small pick-ups with 2 rows of bench seats), trains, boats, and of course, airplanes.  We’ve even had 2 overnighters, once on a bus and another on a train, both of which went surprisingly well.  The train from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok was meant to take 14hrs, but was a hour late which is not unusual.  Although we booked 1 week in advance, the air con faster train was already sold out.  The 2nd class fan-only sleeper that we ended up on resembled those used in India, although the service was much better and the trains slightly cleaner.  And around 7pm, the cabin conductor came around and converted everyone’s seat into a bed, folded down the upper bed, and even made the beds up with clean sheets, pillows, blankets and privacy curtains.  

The girls probably slept for around 9hrs that night, which is pretty good considering the somewhat regular noise of opposing trains screeching past. 

Our seats on the sleeper train, by day...

...and same seats transformed at night.

We do try to walk whenever we can and we’ve been really surprised at how far the girls can travel this way, although it does tend to be at a ‘museum’ pace as our friend Kate puts it!  Our best effort yet has been 5hrs per day for 2 straight days, walking and climbing around Angkor Wat and surrounding temples the past 2 days--and there weren’t any complaints either although Jim and I were quite tired by the end of it!  The rare cooler weather that we’ve been experiencing in Cambodia probably helped a lot though (and maybe a blue moon somewhere??!).

Climbing around at Angkor Thom (Bayon)

Climbing the steps of Ta Keo (Angkor Wat)...

...and the view from the top!

On the topic of walking, appropriate footwear for the girls, especially Maddy, has been a weak area from the beginning.  We reluctantly started the trip with 3 pairs of shoes each:  a pair of leather ‘Clarks’ for Yasmine, a pair of Crocs for the beach, and a pair of runners.  Maddy had the same, but a pair of river sandals instead of the leather ones.  

Problem we encountered was that their toes were left too vulnerable to being stepped on especially in crowded urban areas.  But prior to our departure from Australia, we were challenged to be able to find sturdy travel sandals that were even available in toddler sizes—we simply couldn’t, even from the specialty shops.  The ones that were available were not only too big, but very expensive.  

Can you imagine our surprise and delight when we found a huge range of ‘Keen’ brand outdoor shoes at a department store in Bangkok at a price that we wouldn’t have found in Australia even if the sizing were available!  The girls have been much ‘sturdier’ since and no squashed toes—yayyy, issue resolved, although now I really don’t think that their runners will see any use at all!

New Matching Keens

Found:  At Tokyu Department Store, Bangkok

Make sure you have good sturdy walking shoes, preferably closed-toe.  Flip Flops don’t offer enough support or protection, nor do Crocs.

Although it was hot in Bali, it’s been even hotter in KL and in Thailand, where it’s usually been 35+ with humidity in addition to that.  As a result, we’ve had issue with heat-induced eczema with the girls (more so with Maddy) that appears in the joints of their elbows and neck and can be very painful.  As well, as the girls do tend to have a sleep in the afternoons when the day is at its hottest, we find that it’s mandatory for us to have air-conditioning in our rooms (which adds to our budget) and finding accommodation with a swimming pool also is a bonus.

We’ve also encountered a bit of rain while in Pai, in northern Thailand.  While we’ve had the occasional short-lived thunderstorm earlier in our trip in Bali and in KL, the continual rain in Pai was too much for the girls ‘water resistant’ jackets to handle.  We’ll have to find more ‘rain gear’ for them and leave the jackets that we brought along (purchased 2nd hand) behind.

Food choices at mealtimes continues to be a problem for the girls .  They don’t like spicy food so we have to be careful with sauces and cooking methods as often the vendor will say it’s not spicy (as to their palate it probably isn’t), but it is.  We tend to eat primarily in ‘local’ eateries and sometimes the girls just want more ‘western’ food like fish and chips, sandwiches and pasta.  Although it is available, it tends to cost 2-3x the cost of the local dishes, so we don’t indulge them often.  We do tend to eat ‘western-style’ for breakfast.  

On the flip side, the girls are getting lots of vegetables, meat and fruit in the daily local diet, probably more so that they’d normally get at home as these are staples in all of their dishes, including fish.  We do have to be conscious that they get enough calcium so we usually buy them a small carton of UHT milk from 7-Eleven daily.  Fresh milk has been available in Thailand, but it’s rarer, more expensive and usually only available in larger sizes such as 2-ltrs so this requires us to have a fridge that we can access in our accommodation, which we usually don’t.

Travelling is definitely leaving its mark on the girls’ ‘world’. They reveal this through the things they say and do, such as:

·         Asking matter-of-factly if we’re ‘hanging homes’ again today/tomorrow.

·         Asking what time it is in Australia, Canada (They’ve got the vague concept of time change)

·         Asking what country we are in and incorporate other names of countries that we’ve been to in their play. (They’re beginning to get the idea that the world is a big place)

·         Role playing ‘how much is the tuk tuk’ (negotiations).

·         Coming out of the toilet exclaiming ‘It wasn't a squat’ or ‘It was a squat’!

·         Asking for money to give to the poor and to the buskers that they see on the street.

·         Observing monks and other people practicing and engaging in their strong cultural and religious beliefs in their day to day life and asking questions.

Tr Trying to say 'hello', 'goodbye' and 'thank you' in the local language

Things they miss??

·         Having our car in Australia ‘so that they wouldn’t have to waste their energy walking everywhere.’

·         Having more ‘space’ in our living arrangements:  they miss having their own beds, their toy room, swing set, cubby house, --our house in general

·         Favourite foods from home:  Yasmine-macaroni and cheese

·         Their friends

Overall, the girls are eating and sleeping well and have been healthy and without any sickness, which is the best part, although Yasmine did have a bit of an ear infection back in Bali.  Yasmine's even put on a bit of weight.  We’ve had lots of scrapes, and cuts and a few mozzie bites, but other than a drain on our band-aide supply, we haven’t touched any of the medical kit that we’ve brought along! All in all, so far so good--typical kids, but not.

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