Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Becoming Home

 Well, our new city is becoming more and more like home.  We still miss parts of our old city, especially some of our really good friends, but we have begun to make new friends here and even got a package in the mail.  Actually, we got two packages, one from Mamaw and Papaw and another from some dear friends back in the States.  It was a very special day and we got some much needed goodies :)  Here's Jonathan showing off all his new socks and what has become a cooking staple for us...Zesty Italian dressing packets!  I hope I didn't give away one of his top chef secrets ;)
 The kids got some really cool shirts that change colors in the sun.  Benjamin changed into his right away. 
 They also got some children's books.  We have had fun reading them every night.  I think Katherine's favorite is The Berenstain Bears book. 
 Lauren opened all her candy and had it spread out on the table.  She was eating one at a time and had her hands up to protect from any thieves that might snatch one quickly :)
 Another thing that makes it more like home is a finished room.  Regan now has curtains and is getting her pictures up around the room.  It's hard to tell, but the curtains have cute little flowers all over them, including purple ones...her favorite color.  I still have to print a couple of pictures for her, but it is much more finished than it was before...curtains make a huge difference.
She also got her desk for school this week.  She loves to do artsy things as well, so this gives her a great place to work on them.  We found a bulletin board and thought it would be perfect over her desk to display all of her things.  She didn't really like that I was putting the picture up this week because the bulletin board is "not finished yet" but I think it is cute still.
 And having a bit of a routine is helping as well.  All the kids are taking one class this summer that meets twice a week.  I was able to get in to take pictures and video some in the little girls class, but I had to pay a price...the teacher pulled me up their to help her demonstrate one of the dance moves.  Hopefully, she realized quickly that I can't dance and I won't be the "example" again. Haha.  In case you didn't see it already, here is the link to Lauren doing the dance after just 3 lessons.
It's too cute.  I have to get one of Katherine up soon.
 After dance class, the girls found this climbing wall inside their new school.  They can't wait for school to start in September!
 Some new friends took us out to eat.  It was a similar restaurant to others we have been to, but this one had some particularly interesting things you could eat. You pick out which ones you want to eat and so that it is "fresh" when you eat them.  Here the kids found that we could order a small alligator.  I'm pretty sure he would have been VERY expensive.
 Here are some chefs waiting to see if we want to order snake.  Yes, I said snake, and yes, we ate some.  I have to say that the taste was not all that bad, but there are way too many bones in it...I think it is too difficult to eat.
 Katherine was so excited to find her favorite food....shrimp!  She couldn't wait for a platter of them to come.  We have not had any since we moved, so she was one happy girl.
As usual, our friends ordered WAY TOO much food for us.  It is impolite for them to have food and us eat it all, so they will always order too much, but our new friends have not learned yet that our kids do not eat the same amount as an adult :)  Many times, people will order a fish for one of the dishes, but this time every one got their very own fish to eat.  It was very good food, just no way to eat it all.  Oh, and a side note for my mom....this place had EXCELLENT shrimp fried rice. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Fish Tale

 So, when we moved to our new house, our landlord left so many things in the apartment.  We spent the first week cleaning out closets, drawers, etc. getting rid of all his stuff.  We asked him before getting rid of it and he told us that we could use it or throw it away.  It made unpacking and cleaning a little more difficult, but we have gotten unpacked finally.  One of the things that was left was a little fish bowl in Benjamin's room.  He has always been my animal lover and he got so excited that his new room could have fish.  So I took him to the market to pick out a fish for his bowl.  It is done differently here in the fact that all the fish are in these tubs (some in actual tanks) and you catch your own fish.  I'm not sure which he enjoyed more, the buying of the fish or the catching of the fish. :)
They told him that he could have 6 fish in his bowl, so that is how many he bought.  One died the first day and another the next morning.  We went and bought one replacement and then a third one died.  The ones that are left have been doing good, so we decided that that is enough in a bowl.
The landlord also left a huge fish tank in the living room with fish already in it.  We are learning how to take care of them.  We are hoping they survive the learning process. 
 The kids and I went out one night for dinner while Jonathan was out with some guys he had met.  It was fun to see the city at night.  It felt a little like Christmas with all the lights out.  It's actually a great time to get out because that is when everyone else is out, so we were able to meet more people. 
 Katherine was excited that we found a little shop (not kidding on the little part...about 2 people could squeeze inside) that sold some Hello Kitty things.  She has been asking for a kid bowl to eat with.  I had been looking but had not seen a pink one yet.  She found one at this store and was so excited to take it home. 
 Benjamin was also having fun.  He really wants to buy a motorcycle :) They are everywhere in our new city.
The kids also made friends with 2 different McDonald's delivery guys.  Not because we were ordering, but because they were out delivering and would get stopped at the crosswalks with us.  They thought it was so neat that they would deliver and his name was Nathan. They loved that! :)
Other than that, we have no other pictures to show.  We have been in the middle of a pretty strong typhoon so it is not good picture taking opportunities.  The strongest winds have passed and now it's just lots of rain.  We saw many down trees, laundry (hangers and all) on the sidewalk, and the kids summer classes have been cancelled for the week.  So, we have had several days in a row of not getting out much.  The kids are fighting cabin fever :)  Hopefully, we'll see some sun again soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Settling In

The kids were so excited to start summer class this week.  We let them choose what they wanted to take.  Regan chose dance and Benjamin chose kung fu.  It has been a great way for them to meet new friends and for us, too.  We have met many parents and it has also given the kids a chance to get some energy out :)
Benjamin is taking the class so seriously!  This was the first day.  Apparently on the 1st day no one wears the uniform, but in both the dance class and kung fu class they now wear them.  He loves coming home to show me his new moves. 

This is his instructor.  He is apparently a master of kung fu.  His picture is up all over the place and on the first day of class the room was filled with newspaper and tv reporters.  Benjamin got interviewed twice...haha!  It has also been good because he speaks a little bit of English and is GREAT with the boys!  I just wish I could stay and take pictures the entire time, but the parents have to leave.
This was Regan's first class.  She's the really tall one in the back :)  She has met several little girls in this class and is also having a great time.  I wish I had my camera this morning when I was dropping her off.  It was a see of little blue dance outfits!
The younger two are also getting to take a dance class at their school.  It has been perfect getting them used to a new building, new teachers, new friends, etc. all before the every day school starts in the fall.  The only thing they had to have for class was dance shoes, so we bought them at the youth center where Regan is taking dance. (Their feet are as big as all the big kids so it was very convenient for me to buy them there!)
I couldn't pass up one of his warm up sessions at the house.  I'm really not sure what he is doing in this shot, but you can see the back of his shirt.  He now has told me that he wants a weight set...not yet, not yet. 
Look who's super excited to go to class!!  They had their dresses picked out a week ahead of time.
Katherine really surprised me.  She is my shy one, but she was in her element here.  Even though this is a new school, she new the routines and looked so comfortable.
Lauren, on the other hand, was thinking what have I gotten myself into? She was sticking really close to big sister and Katherine filled the role well :)

Here is a picture of our new city at night.  This is from our bedroom window.  We are still getting used to the size of it.  We love it here, but it is significantly smaller than where we moved from.  We are starting to find our way around and having several cultural moments that we can jot down and look back at them in a few years and laugh :)

How could you pass up a picture of this?  The dress is actually starting to get a little small on her, but she just loves it so much and then she found these pink tights when we were unpacking and brought me the hair bow...it was adorable!
And then you have my mini me :)  She has discovered if she wears sunglasses and a hat, she feels like she is not noticed as much.  I would have to agree and disagree.  I disagree because I think she is adorable (But I think that about all my kids).  I agree because it keeps people from touching her hair and she feels like they can't see her behind those sunglasses.
We had to travel up to a larger city for an appointment.  We decided to make the trek as a family and see how to get there and what all we could see.  It was a fun little trip.  We ate pizza, had ice cream, and bought new umbrellas (because it started to rain and we didn't think about umbrellas before we left).  Lauren sang songs on the bus and was cracking me up.  She would sing the ABC's and then at the end she would sing "next time no one sing with me"  Too funny.
We also got a kick out of this guy on the streets playing his guitar.  Jonathan said I shouldn't take his picture if we weren't going to give him money, so each of the kids got to put money in his bag.  He was singing, playing , and even tapping his foot (in the air) to the beat of the music.  I think it is the first time I have seen this one.  I bet his head has to hurt though!

And finally, I cooked!  If you know us well, you know Jonathan is the cook.  Before we moved, I took "lessons" form Ayi on how to make some of her dishes.  Lauren has been having major culture shock moving here and not having her Ayi with her.  So, I decided it was time to try out my cooking lessons.  I walked to the market, bought all the different ingredients form about five different vendors, walked home, and started cooking.  About two hours later this is what I had.  It wasn't exactly the same as Ayi's food, but close.....close enough to have one VERY HAPPY little girl!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We have Moved!

The last two weeks have been filled with many goodbyes, packing up everything, moving to a new city, unpacking (still working on that one), and trying to learn a new town and meet even more wonderful people.  The last two years have been incredible.  Above is my closest friend holding Lauren at Regan's piano recital.  Regan did excellent by the way! 
We were showered with gifts of lychee fruit all week!  They really are good, but we could not eat all of them.  They are only good for about a day or two even if you put them in the refrigerator.  I had never had them before moving here, but apparently there are some parts of Florida that you can get them as well.
Each night on that last week we were in our "old city," we had friends drop by wanting to spend some time with us before we left and wanting pictures.  This little girl came over and didn't want to leave :)  We had another boy that wrote us the sweetest note saying that the times he had spent with our family were the happiest days of his life.  His mom later told me that he asked if they too could move to our "new city."  It was much harder to leave all of our friends here than I had expected 2 years ago.
Benjamin spent the last week catching frogs with his buddy from school.  They had such a good time being boys together :)  The frog catching has continued in our new city.  I'm really glad, too.  Benjamin was afraid that there would be no frogs here and we already had a plan of action in our heads to go down to the local market to buy some frogs (and tell them not to kill them that we could do it at home...they are for food) and then release them outside for him to find :)  So glad we didn't have to go that route!
Benjamin said he taught the frogs a secret handshake.

I had gone outside to check on him, he had been looking for frogs all morning with no luck, when I saw him playing with his friend.  They were running around having a good time.  I asked him if he found any frogs yet.  He started pulling them out of his pockets and said "YEP!" with a huge grin :) 
He is such a good big brother.  He did not want his little sister to feel left out, so he caught a baby frog and put it in a container for her.  She was a little afraid at first, but has warmed up to the idea of looking for them.
The movers came and literally saran wrapped our entire house!  They said nothing leaves the house if it's not in a box or wrapped.  They even wrapped our suitcases and backpacks.  It was a site to see.
We are very thankful that everything got to our new apartment in one piece.  They did an excellent job.

Jonathan said that if they could saran wrap the chairs then he could saran wrap the syrup. :)

I would not have wanted to live in our building on moving day.  We had the elevator tied up for much of the morning.  At least we didn't have to carry things down eleven flights of steps!

I just wanted a picture of the actual moving truck.  The only story I have about the truck is that when it was leaving the complex, the security guards were chasing after it.  Our landlord was supposed to give them a note saying that none of the stuff was his, but he thought it was too much trouble.  I wish I could have actually seen them running after the truck :)  We just got a phone call and description form others.
We had a driver take us to our new home since we had all the luggage, a dog, and a truck already on the way.  A few of our dearest friends came to see us off.   
 So, I had high aspirations of making a flag cake for the fourth of July (2 days after we moved), but I could not pull it off.  My wonderful family (mostly my husband) all pitched in on the FIFTH of July to make the cake :)  I guess if we want to be technical, it was still the fourth in the States :)

 I had wanted to make one last year, but could not find strawberries or blueberries.  So this year when I saw them, I bought them and froze them and moved them with all the rest of our things..haha!  I never thought that would be on the packing list to move.

 Four days after we moved, we all packed bags again and went BACK to our old city for a wedding.  Our language teacher's daughter was getting married and we needed to be there.  It was very interesting.  They tried to incorporate some western aspects into the wedding.  When the guy doing the ceremony said, "Who gives this woman in marriage?"  The dad said, "HUH?!?! Hugh?! Oh oh. Her mother and I."  It was quite funny.
 This was the actual ceremony.  I couldn't see a thing!  Everyone followed her down the aisle taking pictures and then just stayed at the front taking pictures the entire time.  I had not seen that one before.
 Also, it is very traditional here to get married in a restaurant.  So the aisle goes down the center of the tables and then they get married at the front.  The spread of food on each table was HUGE!  I have never seen so much food. 
 After the wedding we headed back to our new home.  Sitting in the bus station, Katherine was a little over all the picture taking, so she kept her head covered with a bandanna.  They really do good with all the attention that they get here, but when they need a break form it, they sometimes have to get creative.

I only have one picture from inside our new house.  This is Lauren and Katherine's new room.  The girls went form all sleeping in one bed in one room to each having their own bed.  We really like the new house and will try to show you pictures as we get the rooms "box free" :)

Our favorite part about the move so far?  The BLUE skies!  We can see the moon and stars every night and during the day the skies are blue and the sun is bright!  It's a welcome change!