Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Places

This week we were able to find many new places and practice our language all over the place. We decided to try to find this mall because we heard it was one of the largest in the world. Well, apparently, that is only in square footage. We (as in I) was a little dissappointed that there were no stores to shop in. I was really hoping to find some new stores. The kids, however, love this mall and want to go back. Why? Well, it turns out that this mall has not only a McDonalds, but an indoor amusement park. Yes. My kids begged the entire time to ride rides. We broke down and let them each ride one ride. (They were not tall enough for most of the rides) Katherine rode these little airplanes, Regan and Benjamin rode some Superman thing, and all of us did the water bumper boats. It turned out to be a good day even if there were no shops. The kids like these elephant statues, too, and we all thought of Auntie Em :)

The other thing this mall had was an awesome looking produce section! We had to take a picture. This was actually as close as we got because we were not prepare to buy food. We are still amazed at the size of this mall and how even the grocery store wasn't crowded. We thought it was a good picture anyway and Jonathan might venture back just for the produce one day ;)

I have to admit, that I have gotten used to the whole idea of carrying an umbrella on a sunny day. It really does keep you from getting so hot. I'm wondering why we don't do that in the States now. BUT, I have not and will not start wearing the umbrella on my head. That's a little too much for me. In case you are wondering, I think most people here would not wear it either. I have seen a few though and it makes me smile every time.

When we first moved here, we met a couple that helped us get back to the hotel where we were staying. They were so friendly. Well, they called us and invited us to go to a water park with their family. We had a great time! It started storming about an hour after we got there. I was a little nervous because there was bolt lightning all around and no one was leaving the pools! We moved to the indoor pools and the rest of the crowd stayed until the rain actually started falling.

They made Regan and I wear a cap to swim. It was a first for both of us :) We stayed at the pool until after our kids bedtimes (and no dinner yet....people here eat dinner much later than we are accustomed) When we decided it was time to head home, our friends said, "Yes. In 20 minutes." We had to go to these series of hot tubs "for our bodies health" before we left. Not everyone at the pool did this, but we were guests, so we just followed along. It was actually REALLY nice. You started with a warm one, moved to a warmer wone that was colored red (supposed to be good for us), and then to a really hot one with jets to massage your muscles, and then you left. Yeah, I can do that again :)

Here is a big girl! Katherine on her first day of school!! She successfully potty trained in 1 1/2 weeks, so that she could attend. She was not going to let us return her new uniform and backpack to the school. The kids paint, play with toys, do music and dance, and have an English lesson every day.

She had a great first week and is looking forward to going again this week. She told me on Friday that she had fun and had lots of friends. They were all telling her bye when we left. It was cute.

Regan and Benjamin also had their Open House to meet their teachers and see their rooms. They start school on the 30th and will be attending an international school (English speaking) but will take language classes to learn the local language here. Each class has their own mascot. Regan is a frog and Benjamin is a dolphin. Regan is already looking forward to next year when she will get to be a giraffe...her favorite animal.

Here, we do not wear our shoes in the house. Some people leave them outside their door, but most find it ok to have a shoe rack like this one as soon as you enter. This was one of the first things we bought beacuse we had quite the pile of shoes by the door.

Here is our sweet Ayi. She is the lady that helps us watch Lauren during the day. She also cooks lunch for us and helps us with laundry and cleaning. She has been a lifesaver! People here take a rest around 12:00-2:00. We knew this and tried to get her to rest on one of the beds or the couch. She still will not. Instead, she takes 4 of our dining room chairs (in picture above) and lines them up and lays down on them to rest. It does not look comfortable at all to me, but she seems to enjoy it. Oh, the other thing is she turns off all our fans and AC as soon as she gets to our place. We turn off the AC during the day to save money, but keep the fans running all the time, but hey, however she likes it is fine with me!

Since the older kids were not in school this week, they helped me study. They like playing a game with the cards. We would listen to the word and see who could find the picture the fastest. They are pretty good at it.

On Saturday, we wanted to go to a bigger city nearby. It only took about an hour. We had to take a taxi, a train, and a subway to get there, but we made it. This is the kids looking for the train to come. We actually missed our train the first time. We did not realize that it ws possible to buy a ticket for the train that was leaving in 30 seconds. Note to self: If everyone else is running, you should too!
We just got on the next train that was going to the city we were wanting to go to.

Once we got there, we found this mall. This was on my list of things to find because I heard that they had opened up a ToysRUs here and wanted to see for myself. (It is very difficult to find toys here, so I was excited about the possibilities) It was a great mall with lots of variety. I will definitely want to go back some day.
This made me laugh. I guess this is what western kids dress like....maybe in Hollywood. We passed so many stores at this mall with similar clothes, but I'm not sure who wears them. All the kids here (including mine) just wear normal shorts and T-shirts.

And yes...We found the ToysRUs! We bought Katherine a birthday present and managed to get it home without her realizing it. Next mission: to see if we can find some form of wrapping paper.
Wherever we go, people want to take pictures of or with our kids. They always ask first. I decided to take the advice of a friend this week....when they ask, we ask the kids if they want to. Most of the time they don't mind. However, when we were in ToysRUs, Benjamin said no every time. I don't blame's TRU! :) Regan said yes every time :) I wish I had been thinking for one of the pictures and I would have taken it, too. This lady said that her brother thought Regan was very beautiful and wanted to have a picture with her. So, they stood next to each other, but he did not look thrilled at all! It was so funny! I think the big sister was the one wanting the picture NOT the little brother :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week at a Glance

Regan worked really hard on her artwork. She finshed it, and I was quite impressed. The first thing she said was, "Can you put this on the blog?"

The girls have a great view from their room. The girls like to draw and color at the little table that is in there. I don't blame them. This was our last week before Katherine starts school.

Benjamin finally got to spend all that saved money on his watergun. We were really not planning to buy one this big, but after an entire day of searching, this was the ONLY one we could find. He has had fun with it. We have already had to tell him NOT to shoot it off the balcony. Daddy made a target in the bathroom one day and he had a blast.

We also needed to get Benjamin a hair cut. I was not sure where to go to get one, so I just walked around until we found one. We walked in and they took him back to a table that he laid down on to get his hair washed and head massaged. He wasn't sure of it at first (and I was a little jealous) but he ended up loving getting his head massaged. He will be so spoiled when we get back :) After they washed his hair, someone different cut it. After the cut, the same hair washing guy washed his hair again. I thought we were done, but no. He went back to the hair cut guy and they dried what little hair he had left with a hair dryer. Then we paid. How much did it cost? It was about 4 US dollars.

We were also very excited to find a high chair this week. Previously, Jonathan had been holding Lauren in his lap and they would eat and get messy together. They also made each other very sweaty. So, this is Jonathan carrying the high chair back to our apartment. It made me laugh to see them on their way. I wondered what the locals were thingking seeing her carried in this big chair and holding a Coke of all things!

This is not our actual apartment, but it looks just like this one. This is actually the apartment across from us. As you can see, everyone (including us) hangs the laundry to dry. Most families don't have quite as many kids as we do :) so we also bought a dryer to help us not get behind on our laundry. It is very nice to have. We make sure the towels get put in dryer. The other day, we left them out to dry and the kids wrapped up in them. Regan said, "What happened to them?" and Benjamin said, "Dad, my towel feels like sandpaper." Haha. I like soft, fuzzy towels, too!

This is a very rare view from Benjamin's room. Rare because it is not very often that you see such clear blue skies! Since we have been here, we have had many cloudy or smoggy days. However, we have been seeing more and more of the sky recently. The other night, we even saw a couple of stars! (I say a couple because I saw 1 and Jonathan says 15...I think they were planes, but regardless, we saw stars) :)

This week we hired a house helper to take care of Lauren while we are language learning. She is wonderful. She started this week while we are home, so that she can get used to Lauren and learn how we take care of her. Lauren likes to help with household chores...can't you tell?

We are also very thankful that Regan has met a girl, and they have become very close friends already. We try to make sure we let the girls play at least once a week. They are attending the same school, but are in different grades. Oh, that was the other thing we did this week. Regan and Benjamin had their Open House and we got to meet their teachers and see the school. This week we have to buy the items on the supplies list that they gave us. We found out, too, that Regan's class will go swimming every Tuesday and Thursday for their PE time! How nice! Can I go??

Monday, August 16, 2010

Settling In

So, we are now getting settled. It has taken longer than we expected, but we are finally starting to get there. We take many taxi trips to get the things we need (ie plates, cups, needed furniture) We have to remember while we are out that we can only buy as much as we can carry and still fit in the taxi. The taxis are small and hold 4 people comfortably, but the other day we managed to fit 11 people in one...I couldn't believe it. I should have taken a picture. What was I thinking?! But I was in the front seat with two little people in my lap. The picture above is just outside of our place. The kids like looking at the fish.

One of the things that we have done that has played a big part in making this home for the kids is getting out to buy them bikes. And yes, Benjamin has a pink one. It was the only one his size that we could find. He really doesn't mind and lots of boys here wear pink. Hopefully he won't be mad at me one day :)

Katherine wasn't able to ride any of the bikes, so we let her get a scooter. If you look hard, you can see the apartment complex playground in the background. We try to go out to this playground at least once a day. It is pretty much a guarantee that we will get to practice our new language there.

One thing that we bought was a bunk bed for Benjamin and Lauren. It's the first big girl bed for Lauren and she has done great! Benjamin was thrilled that it was orange and white. I will try to put pics of our apartment soon and you can see his room with the bed all together.

Another thing we did this week was register Katherine for "Kindergarten." No, she is not old enough for what we think of as kindergarten, but kindergarten starts at 2 1/2 yrs here. The only catch is that they have to be potty trained. So, we went cold turkey and she has been doing great. She had one day of LOTS of accidents, so we told her we were going to have to take the backpack back to the school...ever since she has done great. Part of registration was getting to take home her uniform, quilt, pillow, and backpack. She is so excited to start! OH, it's not in English either. I have a feeling that she will surpass my language skills quickly.

Regan being a good big sister and reading to her little sister. I just thought it was a sweet picture. The older two kids don't start school until the 30th. Katherine will start on the 23rd.

We have had some fun games of twister. It is really hot here and we spend the hottest part of the day indoors. It's ok though because the rest of the country does, too. Just about everyone takes a nap for about 2 hrs. I'm trying to convince my oldest that she needs one too (no luck with that one).

More exciting news: Benjamin has lost two teeth and has a third that is loose. He was very excited that the tooth fairy could find him here. Regan was a little upset that "he got more money" but in reality they got the same. I tried to explain that it was really the same as the US dollar amount. Oh well.

We have decided to make McDonald's our weekly Sunday meal. They give little baby cones out for free. We have been letting the kids get the big ones though because we can buy 3 for about $1.00. I am still trying to figure out how to order and get what I want. I was very excited this week that I was understood when I asked for a Sprite. This was a major break through! :) Now, if i could get them to understand when I say, "only pickle." I tried using a dictionary translator thing and it translates the English word into characters...we are learning that it doesn't work. I typed in pickle and it translated it pepper.

Bicycle parking at the shopping center.

I wondered how the lady knew to tell her child to say "hello little sister." Then I remembered. The little ones here have split bottom pants, so i guess it's obvious if it's boy or girl.

The playground is very crowded in the evenings. If you want to swing, you better be ready to run for it!

I'm really glad Lauren doesn't seem to mind that the kids just can't keep their hands off of her. They just love all those blonde curls. Kids will just follow her around wherever she goes on the playground. I think she really enjoys all the attention :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Journey Here

Our journey here began with a plane delay. We were delayed almost 6 hours. Thankfully, we found out about the delay while at home and did not have to spend those 6 hours in the airport. We woke up at 3am to get all of our things to there. I assumed the kids would go back to sleep...I assumed wrong. We were all awake for more than 30 hours before it was all said and done. Needless to say we were tired.
This is the view flying into the airport. When we got there, we had to try and figure out how to get all of us and all of our luggage through customs. (Our original plan was to have a connecting flight to another city, but we missed it because of the delay. So, we had to catch a bus to our city.) We soon realized that it would be impossible to get through customs without hiring a porter. So we did. We got through easily and found a van company that agreed to drive us across the border so that we would not have to take out all of our luggage, go through customs again, and reload all of our luggage. We were excited until they saw our luggage. They backed down and doubled the price! We eventually went with the original option of taking a bus.

The kids finally fell asleep on the bus (bad timing because we had to get on and off 3 times). We rode the bus to the final stop and uloaded looking for a different van that was supposed to meet us there to drive us to our hotel. it never showed, so the kids and I hopped in a taxi and went to the hotel while Jonathan waited with the luggage. We got to the hotel and our 2 adjoining rooms were suddenly not available. They said they could find 1 small room with 1 bed. (thankfully we had a translator at this point) We said, "no, we have 4 children" (who were all crying in the lobby) So, they said, "ok, we will role another bed into that one for an extra $100 per night" Eventually, we got a bigger room with 2 beds.

We put 2 chairs together to make a "crib" for Lauren and the other 3 slept sideways in the bed. The beds are very hard here, too. We slept good that night reguardless of the sleeping arrangement, but the kids were all up at 3am...the joy of jetlag with kids :)
So, we got up and dressed and started apartment hunting around 9am. The second apartment we saw was perfect for us. It even 3 bedrooms (not common here) and AC in the bedrooms!! Besides that, it was on the top floor, so it has an upstais and downstairs and a great view of the city. We are VERY happy!

This is looking out from one of the balconies. The day we also signed for the apartment, we bought a couch, bunkbeds, a phone, and a fan. Day two we went shopping for a fridge. Last night Jonathan went to a little shop down the street to get dinner and bring home (we have no cooking supplies yet) and when we sat down to eat we realized we had no plates or anything. So, I guess you know our shooping list for today. :)

This is the view from Regan and Katherine's bedroom. Right now, there is a field that they farm, but I'm sure it will eventually be apartments. It's nice to see some green though.

You can imagine that we draw a lot of attention everywhere we go (4 kids and all with blonde hair). Lauren and Regan are loving all the attention. Katherine and Benjamin it just depends on their mood. Either way, wether walking down the street or trying to buy something, a crowd forms and cameras come out.
The little boy above was so funny. We think he is about Lauren's age. The 2 of them just looked at each other and would laugh. And we laughed, too.

The kids are very happy to find an American restraunt...just take a guess. It was actually very good and did not cost much. We were so pleased with the price that we splurged and let the kids go back and get a McFlurry. I told Jonthan that it is sad that a McFlurry costs $12 (local currency) and the delivery and assembly of the bunk beds cost $7 (local currency) Hmmmmm.

And i thought it would be fun to end on a this. A sign in our aprtment complex. So, just remember, when falling down, do so carefully!