Leaving tonight?

I thought that things would be a little less crazy this week, but I was wrong.

My son was trying to sell something online for us and almost got scammed. A person sent my son a check for over the asking price for the object and told him to take it to the bank right away.  He did because the bank was closing soon and he didn’t know what to do. Then the person was going to have his “moving person” swing by and pick up the object along with the extra money for moving the item to another state. It seemed a little fishy, but everything happened so fast that I didn’t stop my son.

When Paul heard about it later, he worried it was some sort of money laundering scheme. He dug around online and found out it was a scam. The scammer sends a legitimate looking check for over the price and tells the person to give the money to the mover who is stopping by to pick it up. The person who picks it up steals the item and the money then the check bounces. Our item was scheduled to be picked up the day we are leaving for vacation.

Yesterday morning, I went to the bank and expressed my concerns about the check being fraudulent. Upon closer examination, the bank also thought it was a scam. Unfortunately, when the check bounces my son’s account with be charged. I feel bad that I didn’t stop my son from putting the check into his account. We both thought something wasn’t right but ignored it because they were pressing my son to cash it before the bank closed the night before. It really didn’t give me enough time to think.

It just started the day out bad yesterday. But it didn’t end there. Someone pulled out in front of me and I skidded on the ice almost hitting them. The roads here are still horrible. Last Monday we got a foot of snow. Then we had 4 days of temps in the double digits below zero, followed by an ice storm, followed by more cold weather so the salt didn’t melt the ice.

Oh, it gets better. Then my husband went to the dental hygienist and she refused to treat him because his blood pressure was too high. Yesterday Paul had several meetings with key clients to try to save accounts. After I lost my position at the company we previously owned, clients got a little skittish with all of the changes. The meetings were stressful for Paul and he was running late to his appointment. His blood pressure was 185/107. They told him he needed to see his doctor immediately.

Paul had appointments all day, but kept monitoring his BP. His BP has been borderline high for years. By the end of the day, his BP was still high and the nurse said to take him to the ER since he also had a slight headache. Off to the ER we went. I was paranoid by all of the illnesses we were exposed to last night. If I didn’t think my husband could wind up dead during the night from a stroke, I wouldn’t have risked it. Ah, the things we do for love.

We spent the evening with Paul in a hospital bed, in a gown with an IV in his arm watching the state of the union address. The nurse came in and jokingly said that the SOTU was giving her high blood pressure. Even though no fight ensured about politics, Paul’s BP was still high when we left so they gave him medication. We left to drive home through another snow storm. Big snowflakes and sleet pattered against the windows, but we made it home safely. I certainly did not want to go back to the ER.

This morning there was 4 inches of snow over glare ice. Arabella fell on her way out to the car for school. It’s just nasty out there. Paul spent hours plowing everyone out. Then tonight we are expecting freezing rain followed by another 6 inches of snow. Paul and I are planning on flying out early tomorrow morning for a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands with friends. I hope we can leave.

I will be taking some time off of blogging. You are probably sick of my whining and complaining anyway. When I get back, I will write a travel series about the trip and lighten things up a little. I try to do that after things get a little heavy. Then I will be back at it again.

Well, I better get packing.

Vegas, part 4

 

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The day we visited Red Rocks Canyon was my favorite day in Nevada. It was strange going from the big city to out in the middle of nowhere within 20 minutes.

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It wasn’t the easiest vacation since receiving the news that the daughter of a best friend passed away in a car accident while we were there. But here I was with my daughter in a beautiful place and I refused to worry the whole time about something I had no control over. I wanted to have some great memories of our mother-daughter trip. If anything, I learned that life is too precious to take any moment for granted.

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I tried my hardest to convince my daughter and her friends to go hiking with me. With temps over 100 degrees and full sun, I couldn’t convince anyone to walk far anywhere. They thought I was crazy! Not being used to the heat, we didn’t even think about packing drinks. We must have looked pathetic because a guide from a tour bus offered us drinks, which we gladly accepted. We chugged our drinks quickly, because after about 10 minutes our drinks would be too hot. I drank hot water, hot beer, and a hot bloody Mary on this trip and it was pretty gross.

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It was fun hanging out with music majors. Every conversation turned into a song…we would say something that reminds us of song lyrics and next thing you know everyone is singing. I have to say that I was really impressed with Angel and her friends. They were all very supportive and encouraging towards their competitors in the singing competition. It was refreshing and unexpected.

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The trip to Red Rocks Canyon was very peaceful and calming. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Thailand, Day 9

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We left the hotel early in the morning to take a speed boat to the Coral Island beach. Today we were going to spend most of the day on the beach. I couldn’t wait. The water was a brilliant color of sea green with a white sand beach. The water was a perfect temperature. Every few minutes we felt a slight stinging sensation on our skin. We thought that it might be from tiny jellyfish. A couple of times we saw hundreds of small fish jumping up out of the water being chased by a bigger fish.

We set up our towels on comfy lounge chairs before the other hordes of tourists started pouring in. It was close to the Chinese New Year and there were many tourists in the area on vacation from China.

While at the beach especially, and in other places, I noticed something different. I noticed that the Asian people at times walked around with parasols. They wore long sleeves and pants even on the hottest days. Where they not hot? I thought maybe they were more modest than the rest of us in bikinis and shorts.

Our tour guide said that the Thai people do not want tan skin. In their culture, having tan skin means that you are out in the sun a lot working like the poor people. In fact, they have a big market for selling skin bleaching products. The only thing I bleach is my hair.

Where I’m from, if you are tan it means that you have time for leisure. I went to the tanning bed before my trip. I was quite the contrast to the Asian women who have dark hair and light skin. There was a single girl in our tour group that was getting hit on because she had pasty white skin.

It really made me question my own standards of beauty. I personally believe that having bleach blonde hair and dark tanned skin is beautiful. I want a -10 inch waist and the body of a Barbie doll. Thank you Mattel for creating an unattainable masterpiece of beauty perfection. Now being in my mid-40’s and having 3 C-sections, I am not going to be too hard on myself. But I honestly feel like crap about how I look when my summer tan starts to fade. I would go to a tanning bed year round if I didn’t feel like it was unsafe.

Most teenage girls in the 1980’s spent a lot of time slathering themselves in baby oil or dark tanning oil and laying out. At that time, no one ever told us it was unhealthy. Paul and I went to the tanning bed before this trip. We didn’t go because we thought it would make us look nice. We did it because we are very adventurous outdoors and didn’t want to burn. We did get a little pink on the day we spent at the beach.

We had a glorious time at the beach. We got back to the hotel in mid-afternoon. Paul really had his heart set on getting another massage. Our tour guide told us that if we wanted a massage that we needed to look for a Thai massage and not a body massage. If you went to the body massage place, you would be entering a brothel.

We went to an upscale massage parlor, but they were booked for the day. We walked around town until we found a place that offered Thai massage. They had one opening for a massage bed and one for a chair. I took the chair massage. Paul was led to a massage bed that was separated from 2 other massage beds by a curtain. I was seated out in the main area. My masseuse only knew limited English.

While I was there, I watching the bugs climb up the wall and saw a girl at the bar next door curling her eyelashes for the night. It didn’t seem like they spraying down any of the tables or chairs between clients. I did feel some comfort when a courier dropped off a see through bag of clean towels. A new masseuse came in and changed her shirt in front of Paul because there was nowhere else to change into her work clothes. She jokingly told him if he looked, she would charge him.

After the massage, we walked down to the end of the street. There were rows and rows of bars with at least 50 girls lined up waiting for a man that night. They were scantily clad, some dressed in sexy school girl outfits. It was early in the evening and they were just sitting there waiting watching as we passed by. We walked by a body massage place and saw signs of 3 for the price of 1. I really don’t know the difference between the prostitutes in the body massage parlor and the girls waiting at the bar.

The 2 nights in Pattaya, we saw some very young attractive Thai girls eating fancy meals with corpulent repulsive old white men around 40 years their senior. Although totally acceptable in their culture, I had a really hard time with this. What two (hopefully) adults consent to do should really be no concern of mine… I kept thinking of how I would feel if my teenage daughters went out with a man older than my husband. I couldn’t get past it.

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This was our last picture of our view of the city in daylight. Tomorrow we are heading home.

Thailand, Day 8

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We left Ayutthaya this morning and were heading to Pattaya. After breakfast, Paul decided to stay downstairs. It seemed a little out of character for him. The elevator was old, small, and rickety. It would not go anywhere at all if the weight limit was exceeded. A big guy could almost feel a little trapped.

I don’t know how many times I tripped going into the bathrooms of our hotel rooms. The bathroom floors in most hotel rooms were lower than the regular room floors. If it was dark and you were trying to make your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, chances are good that you might have to catch yourself from falling. In this hotel’s bathroom, the shower was built for someone 5 ft tall. Paul wondered how he was going to fit under it.

Paul found black marks on the wall near the outlets from sparks. “This whole place could burn down at any moment and we are on the top floor!” exclaimed Paul. Surprisingly, I didn’t worry all that much about anything, which is a big role reversal for Paul and I. I thought the hotel, although old, was charming. It was hot in the hallway when I was waiting for an elevator down. I noticed that the window nearby was wide open without a screen and took the picture above without falling.

The first stop of the morning was to a public grade school. In general, the kids in the public schools are poor. They don’t need to get a high school diploma and sometimes leave before reaching high school to work. The tour group we used has a foundation that helps support the public schools by covering extra expenses such as computers. We were encouraged to bring school supplies, but not to give the children money directly. After the anthem, flag raising, exercise time, and morning meditation a child would take our hand and bring us to their classroom. We read a story in English to them and they read to us in their language. It was a very moving experience.

Our tour guide said if someone is born poor that it is very hard to leave their station. If they get married, the man has to pay a dowry to his future bride’s family. Our guide had to pay $30,000 US dollars to marry his wife. A poor man cannot afford to marry a rich girl. A very attractive poor girl has a higher dowry than a poor girl that is plain. People rarely divorce, they marry the family.

After the school, we visited a gem factory. We went on a small tour ride then were taken past the workers making jewelry. Soon we entered the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. I bought Paul a new wedding ring with a Topaz gem. He broke his first ring and lost his second. The third time’s the charm. Right?

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We got into our hotel rooms in the late afternoon. Pattaya was not at all like I was expecting. It was a bigger city than I imagined it to be. We decided to sit by the pool for awhile. I ordered a drink that I thought would be like a bloody Mary. But it was more like unsalted tomato juice with vodka, very different.

That evening we were invited to go to a restaurant with another couple from the tour. They said that it was supposed to be the best in the city and it certainly was. If you are ever in Pattaya, you have to go to Bruno’s. Paul and I thought it was one of the top restaurants we’ve ever been to. The food was out of this world. The service was unbelievable. They even transported us to and from our hotel which was quite a drive through traffic.

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Tomorrow we will be exploring Coral Island and Pattaya.

Thailand, Day 7

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Today we left paradise and headed to the city of Ayutthaya. On the way we stopped by several street vendors. The first place was selling chickens and rats. They were out of snake.

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Our tour guide purchased a rat and said that we could sample some for lunch after it was cooked some more. These rats were from the patty fields, but with the accent of the tour guide it sounded more like pedophile rats. I did not try this Thai delicacy, but Paul did. He said it tasted like beef. I wimped out after watching the documentary about rats not too long ago. But I assume there is a big difference between NYC sewer rats and Thai rice patty rats.

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I did try the sticky rice made with beans. When I think of rice and beans, I typically think of Mexican food. This tasted like an extra sweet rice pudding.

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We also sampled a burrito with what looked like my hair wrapped inside. It was almost too sweet.

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We watched the vendors make the burritos and hair by hand. Our tour guide said that it was their version of cotton candy.

A few things happened today that are worth mentioning. First, our tour bus almost got hit by a semi. I wore my seat belt on the bus every time after that. The tour guide said that the country has a problem with the drug speed, especially with semi drivers. They take it so they can work long hours. When they get into accidents, they run off. Not too long after our close call, we saw an abandoned semi tipped over on the side of the road.

Also, when we went to the rat vendor, there were birds and a squirrel locked in cages. The squirrel was really agitated and wanted to get out. I thought that was peculiar. Was it next in line to be cooked? I mean, they eat rat. Why not squirrel? Our tour guide said that the Buddhist people will come and pay money to set the caged animals free. Then at night, the birds fly back into their cages only to be sold and set free again the next day.

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The next stop on our trip was to the Summer Royal Palace. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place.

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This is where the royalty stayed in ages past. In the middle left of the picture is an area where the royalty could see who was coming by looking through the slated windows, but no one could see in.

Centuries ago, no one was allowed to touch royalty. Then one summer day, the queen had a boating accident. The people watched her drown because if they touched royalty generations of their family would be killed. The king was so heartbroken that he abolished the law.

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This lizard found his way inside by the other animals.

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I don’t have a lot of pictures by the Royal Palace. Today was the hottest day (over 100 degrees). I was not allowed into the palace with the shirt I was wearing. I had to buy another shirt to wear over my shirt. I already bought the pants I was wearing. First of all, all of the wild pants I bought were not worn by locals only tourists. I think it boldly proclaimed that I was an idiot that didn’t bother to pack pants or acceptable clothing.

To tell you the truth, I was getting very irritable at this point. I never wore so many clothes on such a hot day before. I felt overheated, sluggish, and weighed down by all of the crap I was carrying. Don’t let my smile fool you. I think I was suffering from WAT (What, another temple??) syndrome. At this point in the journey, I was starting to feel a little templed and palaced out.

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In the evening we went to see the ruins of the former capital. It was beautiful at sunset.

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Look at the back of my shirt. The back has a knitted material that you can see my skin through. Oops. At least I had something that matched the wild pants though.

If you look to my right, you can see the statues of the Buddhas with their heads cut off. The heads of the Buddhas were made of gold and were stolen when the city was raided.

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We loved visiting the ruins, but for others it was their backyard.

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Thailand, Day 6

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We started off day 6 by hiking through Hellfire Pass.

This was the actual location that the POW’s from WWII and general laborers from Burma worked day and night to build a railroad through rocks and jungle. They were forced to work very long hours with very little sleep or supplies. If the men were too sick to work, they did not get fed at all in the attempt to get them back to work. Many men got sick with various serious ailments due to the harsh conditions. Many died of starvation.

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The workers were treated poorly and punished severely if they didn’t work fast enough. One hundred thousand people lost their lives building the railroad. The fires lit at night made the workers think of hell, hence the name Hellfire Pass.

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We took a train ride on a part of the Death Railroad that was still in use. We left the train and explored a cave that was set up as a medical aid station during the war. A shrine is set up there now. If you explore the cave past the shrine, there are a lot of bats in it.

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We stopped at a waterfall. It was a slippery climb, but I didn’t see anyone fall.

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In the afternoon, we visited the elephants. This was not included in the trip. It used to be included as an option, but the tour company got flooded with complaints saying that it wasn’t humane to ride an elephant. Unfortunately, the elephants survival depends on tourists dollars.

Many years ago the elephants were not treated humanely. They were given amphetamines to work long hours clearing brush and doing heavy lifting. After this was outlawed, the elephants could not be released into the wild. They would die. They created a sanctuary for these elephants and their families. Tourists can go to the sanctuary and pay to feed the elephants. Or they can ride the elephants, go on a river cruise, and swim with the elephants.

I was very nervous about riding an elephant at first. Look at them! They are huge. I was worried about falling off. The little seat on top of the elephant was held up by a couple of ropes that I was concerned wouldn’t hold our combined weight. Going up and down hills, I felt like I was falling. It was big time out of my comfort zone, but I decided to do it anyway.

After riding the elephant, we took a ride on a bamboo raft up the River Kwai. On the way back down, we jumped in the water and floated down the river. I couldn’t see or feel the bottom with my feet. When we got back, the elephants were waiting for us in the river. I had a hard time standing up as the current was fairly strong and the rocks under our feet were sharp. The elephants themselves are very gentle but whiskery with rough skin. They were only soft on the tip of their trunk.

I was a little nervous in the water too just from the sheer size of the elephants. Paul had an elephant fall in love with him. The elephant kept touching his bald head with her trunk. They gazed into each other’s eyes. Animals love him. The elephant seemed to sense my nervousness.

It certainly was a remarkable experience. I’m really happy I decided to go there.

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There are a few elephants that live in the wild. Some people on our tour bus saw one as we were driving through the jungle.

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We stopped on the way back to see some wild monkeys that were fed leftover food from the market.

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We were not allowed to touch the monkeys. The tour guide had to close the doors on the bus so they wouldn’t get inside and raid our food. It was unbelievable seeing hundreds of monkeys out in the open so close that I could touch them.

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We arrived back at the hotel in the evening and decided to eat outdoors at the romantic table. It was gorgeous outside. The average high temps were in the 90’s and it didn’t rain once the whole time we were in Thailand.

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Nearby was a table with a large extended family. Two little girls from their table danced to American music that played through the speakers. Either we didn’t hear any music at all or it was remade American hits from a few years back made into elevator music sung by a mediocre female singer. She even sang a song by Nine Inch Nails elevator style. I wonder if they even understood the words. I don’t specifically recall hearing any Thai music on our whole trip. I thought that was rather odd.

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Today was our favorite day of the trip.

Thailand, Day 4

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We started Day 4 with an optional tour of the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. We took the tour bus through the crowded streets of Bangkok to get there. There were cars and trucks everywhere. Then there were people that weaved through the traffic on scooters. It was not uncommon to see multiple people, including children and babies, as passengers on the scooters. Only a few of the people wore helmets.

Like yesterday, the palace and temple contained intricately detailed ornate designs. My photos don’t do it justice.

Today I had to wear pants and a shirt with sleeves to gain entrance. To view the Buddha’s in the temples visited, we had to leave our shoes outside. We were not allowed to photograph the Emerald Buddha. Upon entrance to the Emerald Buddha, Paul and I both remarked having a strong unexpected emotional response that is hard to explain. It almost brought me to tears. We couldn’t imagine going there if we were actually Buddhists. The Emerald Buddha itself was very small and dressed in the winter wardrobe. The Buddha’s clothes change with the seasons. We were struck by its beauty.

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Above is a picture of some of the sacrifices made to the Buddha.

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The monks in Thailand don’t have to be monks for life. Our tour guide was a monk for 3 months (the shortest period of time allowed). Being a monk brings honor to their mother. Monks only eat twice a day, once at breakfast and lunch. People bring the monks food alms.

After the temple visit, we took a boat canal tour. The boat on the left was our boat.

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Here is another picture of a boat on the river in downtown Bangkok.

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We had to wait a few minutes for the canal locks to open. Once inside, the boat was tied up until the locks closed and we could begin our tour.

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I took a few pictures of what the houses along the canal look like.

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It is hard to imagine that people live here.

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Although there aren’t any crocodiles and alligators, there are huge lizards.

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The picture below is of the nicest house on the canal. If you look closely you can see that the windows are broken and the house has been left to ruin. The owners were robbed and murdered. No one wants to live there with the ghosts in the house. This is not the norm. Our tour guide said that the rich and poor usually live side by side in harmony as it is the Buddhist way.

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Then after the tour, we met up with a friend of ours that lives in Bangkok. He married a Thai woman and promised her father upon marriage that they would come back if he became poor of health or reached 75 years of age. While in America, they adopted a little girl.

The first thing we did was go to a food market. There were rows and rows of food sitting out to be sold. The smell was nauseating and we didn’t buy anything. After that we went to a grocery store. The grocery store was smaller than the market. Most of the food wasn’t ready to pick up and put into the cart. Some of the food was in bulk or needed to be weighed.

After that, we picked up their daughter from her school. She attends an English speaking international private Catholic Buddhist school. I asked how that worked. He said that he thinks they like the idea of family with Mary and Jesus. The Buddha is always single.

Then we visited our friends house. They live in a house that was about the same size as their house back in the US. They are really close to their neighbors. We could hear when the TV was turned on next door. It was stifling hot in the house. But to them it was not hot enough to turn on the A/C.

After our friend’s wife returned from work, we walked 8 blocks to a restaurant. The restaurant was outdoors and ducks were hanging out front. We were able to choose what kind of duck meat we wanted and also the noodles in our soup. No one in the restaurant spoke English. The total cost of the meal was $10 for 5 people. We tried juice that was made from flowers and/or juice from fruit that we never heard of before.

Afterwards, our friend’s wife and daughter walked home and we were off to the entertainment district of Pat Pong. It is impossible to cross the street anywhere, so they have little walkways every so often that go over the street. We crossed the street and hopped into the back of a truck that had two rows in the back. Our friend stood on the platform in the back of the truck. We jumped off the truck 10 minutes later to catch the sky train. The sky train was tricky. I’m sure we wouldn’t have been able to do it without someone that knew how.

After we got off of the sky train, we walked through a block of people selling items like sunglasses to reach the Pat Pong entertainment district. At Pat Pong there were 3 long rows of markets surrounded by a dozen of night clubs with pole dancers. Outside the clubs, there were greasy looking men holding cards that had a list of things the girls inside could do for money. I will leave it at that. It was pretty seedy.

Some of the pole dancers came out of the night clubs wearing hardly any clothes. Quite a few of them had braces. These girls looked really young. My guess would be that most were in their early teens. Where did they get the money for braces? Or did they get braces to look younger and make more money?

We walked through the rows of markets, but there was nothing I wanted to buy. Everything started looking the same. I was getting sick of shopping at the markets. There were a few infants and toddlers sleeping on tables at the market outside of night clubs. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see how these children and young girls lived. I try to keep an open mind when visiting other cultures, but there are some things that I just am not okay with.

We stopped by a quiet bar without dancers to have a few drinks and talk to our friend. Paul asked our friend what he thought the hardest part of living in Thailand was from the perspective of an outsider. Our friend replied that he had a hard time dealing with the isolation. He didn’t have anyone that he could talk to and relate with.

The waitresses at the bar were older than the pole dancing girls. We gave them a small tip for the drinks and they seemed surprised and thankful. On the way out of the entertainment district, we walked by a short plump man who was cracking a whip trying to entice us to see his girls.

We bid our friend farewell at the sky train. Thankfully there was a monitor on the train that had some English on it so we could find our way back by ourselves. Paul and I spoke freely about our adventures of the day on the train. No one understood a word we were saying. The people stared at us smiling. We exited the sky train and took the last ferry boat back to our hotel.

Today we got the whole Bangkok experience.

Tomorrow we leave for another city.

 

 

Thailand, Day 3

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In the morning, we visited the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po). I learned a lot about Buddhism on this trip. The Buddhists also have a beginning of time story not so different from ours as Christians. There is a struggle of good versus evil. They also have a holy book…monks…beautiful places of worship…the giving of donations…and the afterlife.

I didn’t realize this before, but there are many Buddha’s not just one. I also didn’t know that they believe in reincarnation. If you see a tree trunk with multi-colored ribbons wrapped around it, that means a friend or relative came back as a tree and it shouldn’t be cut down. I’ve seen that before and wondered what it meant.

At the temples, there are statues of demons to protect the people from evil. I saw a lot of these demons at entryways. I think it means that the demons can go no further inside.  Buddhists do not worship on Sundays like we do. They have holy days that revolve around full moons and even celebrate the Buddhist Lent.

This is my new understanding of Buddhism. I might not have all of my facts straight.

I felt completely and totally safe walking around the streets of Bangkok…Safer than I’ve ever felt in Chicago or NYC…Probably…well…because of karma. Even though the city was dirty and polluted, as most are, the people were amazing. Every single person I met was respectful of the community around them.

Now I did fear for my life on the streets that the motorists drove on (which is an entirely different story which I will address at a different time). It is only day 3.

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I was impressed by how ornate the temples are. Look at all of the intricate detail. More demons..

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This is a picture of us next to the Reclining Buddha which is over 150 feet long and about 40 feet high.

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Here is a picture of some of the gifts given to the Reclining Buddha. (1,000 bahts are equivalent to about 30 US dollars).

That afternoon, Paul and I wanted to get a massage. Our tour guide arranged for us to get a massage in our room from two masseuses highly trained at the temple massage school at Wat Po. He told us it was proper to keep our clothes on. Paul and I each got a 2 hour massage for the total price of $40 per person including gratuity.

The massage itself was phenomenal and very interactive. At times they would sit on us and use their feet in the massage. We weren’t worried about the massage that we would be receiving because our tour guide set it up and the ladies were from the temple. We did hear a few cautionary tales about massage before we left home. It was not uncomfortable in any way. It was the best and longest massage we’ve ever received.

Later in the evening, we had a tour welcome dinner. We were told what was expected of us and were given a basic itinerary of what we would be doing.

I realized that I did not pack the right clothing. Most of the temple visits required pants. I did not pack any. Or we could wear a skirt or dress that came below the knees but nothing sleeveless. The only dress I packed was sleeveless. I only packed a couple of shirts with sleeves and the rest of the clothes I packed were shorts for the 90+ degree days.

That night we walked back to the night market to buy pants. Then I decided that I wanted to buy the red shawl after all. We wandered around the market for hours trying to find the shop with the red shawl. The market was huge. It was probably the size of 4 average Walmarts put together.

Just before the market closed we stopped in a shop inquiring about the red shawl and received the response that the red shawl sold after we left the night before. Instead I bought an emerald green cashmere shawl with green fur trim. It was the one that both Paul and I liked second best, a good compromise. We bought all of our souvenirs at the market that night as we were wandering around in circles.

Thailand, Day 2

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We arrived in Bangkok around noon. We were greeted at the hotel with a glass of sweet juice in a flavor I never tasted before and a washcloth. We were tired from the long flight, but not overly so. We decided to walk around the hotel. This is the view of the river from the hotel. It was a beautiful view while eating breakfast outdoors in the morning.

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Since we had a light schedule the first day, we decided to head down to the pool. I went down by myself at first clad in my swimming suit covered with a robe. I didn’t know how to get out of the hotel. The obvious exit to the pool had a sign that said fire exit on it. I was afraid that if I went out this way, I would set off all kinds of alarms because that is what would’ve happened in my country. I wandered around in my robe through the dining area and got a couple of  looks. I finally asked how to get out and the man pointed at the fire exit door directly in front of me.

We weren’t exactly sure how to use the outlets either as they didn’t look like ours at home. A few sparks flew that night. Here is what some of the outside wiring looked like.

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The day we arrived was the coolest day that we had there. There weren’t any reclining chairs in the sun. It was windy and the pool wasn’t heated. I just dipped my feet in and ordered a drink. They really didn’t have any wine to select. The common beers were Chang, Leo, and Tiger. They all tasted like Bud Light. I’m spoiled by every flavored craft beer at home.

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That evening we decided to check out the nearby night market. We decided to eat supper there. Paul bought some sandals, something we couldn’t find a good selection of this time of year at home. I fell in love with a red cashmere shawl, Paul liked the black one on me better. We bargained down to 2,000 bahts (which is approximately $70 at home). Just getting off the plane, 2,000 of any currency seemed like too much money so I walked away.

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We couldn’t decide what to eat. We really weren’t interested in the above delicacies. We decided on a restaurant and were seated without a wait.

The server gave us our menus and stood by waiting for us to order. They don’t just drop off the menus and come back later. I ordered the salmon dish and it was excellent. It came out in 1/4 of the portion size that you would get in the US.

As we were eating, a cat roamed by our table. We saw several apparently owner less animals wandering around. We left after the meal, forgetting Paul’s old shoes in a bag by the table. The server chased us down quite a way from the restaurant to return Paul’s old shoes which was very kind.

We went to bed early that first night…exhausted.

Paul’s journey, part 9

The earliest years of building the business were rough.

Whatever little money he made, he invested back into the business.

He felt like he couldn’t get away. But the business was new and exciting in those days. It was later that we started to feel burnt out. There is so much stress and pressure from the responsibility of owning a business. I don’t even know where to begin. But all of the hard work paid off over the long haul.

Paul went into work on the day our last baby was born. He dragged himself into work with strep. He drove in during major snowstorms. He even went to work after major surgery.

He had a cancer scare. He was having a lot of back pain. He went to the doctor for an x-ray. We didn’t have great insurance, so he didn’t want to spend the extra money on expensive tests. The x-ray showed a mass. They were simply going to drain and remove the mass, but the ultrasound was showing something scary. They thought it could be cancerous. They didn’t want to puncture this mass and have it spread to all of the nearby organs.

Instead they scheduled a major surgery that included the removal of several ribs. Paul spent a week in the hospital. I remember the evening of the surgery well. I sat alone in the waiting area watching the snow fall. I felt empty. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t feel worried. You all know I am a big time worrier. Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know. He was so young then, too young to have cancer I told myself.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified that he is going to get cancer now. Last year his mother passed away from cancer. She had 3 different types of cancer and battled it twice. The year before last, his uncle died from cancer. His grandma had cancer. Currently, he has an uncle in the last stages of cancer. If I wasn’t worried before, I certainly am now.

They removed a benign cyst that was the size of a football from Paul’s adrenal gland. After surgery, he lost a lot of weight. He was pale and gaunt. I’ve never seen him so thin before or since. He was supposed to take a couple of weeks off of work. This was before the time that working out of the house was remotely possible. He was also taking a 4 credit accounting class for his MBA.

I drove Paul into the office after surgery. I helped him walk down the steps to his office wincing in pain. I left him there and picked him up at the end of the day.

Things got easier as the business grew and with technology. I joined him after a couple years. We have been able to get away. We have staff that can help keep an eye on things now. But there is always a strong sense of responsibility that comes with having your name on the door. There are times that we have to drop everything to respond to work issues. Going on vacation always meant checking emails and working.

I am excited that for the first time now, we will be able to take a vacation without working. I wonder how we will respond without the constant pressure.