this week was Parent Teacher Interview week at the Clowns’ school. What that really means to me is, this week was Parent Grading Week at the Clowns’ school…
A couple of weeks ago, we didn’t take the usual route home. It’s amazing what you see when you travel a different way somewhere you are normally on auto-pilot for. This time, we literally went left instead of right. Yep, it was that simple!
What we came across, was the R-Walk (or Ratchaprasong Skyline Walk), which is an elevated walkway in the Ratchaprasong area. There are heaps of shines and interesting spots along the R-Walk. A bonus is it’s all covered, so cooler and more breezy than on the street at times and wide enough that you can stop to take photos or read about the different shrines without getting in the way of the general public. Win!
We walked only about half of the R-Walk, but intend to walk the whole thing one afternoon to check out all the points of interest along the way. As always in Bangkok, there are plenty of places to stop and grab a cool drink and something delicious to eat. You can probably see more places to make note of from the R-Walk so one stroll through won’t be enough.
This is the view of the most popular shine along the walk – the Erawan Shrine. People queue for sometimes hours to visit this shine. I only took a haphazard shot of the info board but I like that they have suggested offerings!
Crazy busy, hu?! And this isn’t even “peak” time!
I liked the calm of the Indra Shrine after the crazy at the Erawan Shrine….
Enjoy your weekend!
Marc and I are big readers.
We have always loved to read and have tried to encourage a love of books and reading from the time each Clown was born. Books have always been readily available and accessible to the Clowns. I may have a book collecting habit that has had to be tamed since we have moved… it’s so hard to leave a book behind! But I digress…! As the Clowns get older we are seeing them develop their own joy in reading and it’s so wonderful to watch!
I enjoy reading what Owen, in particular, reads and is interested in. We have similar tastes, so it’s easy to buy him novels I see in passing or to pick up what he’s reading and thoroughly enjoy it.
Why do I take such an interest in what the Clowns are reading? A few reasons… Partly because I love to read and am partial to great young adult novels. Partly because I want to make sure the Clowns are reading appropriate (and sometimes challenging) material. Partly because it is a way for me to connect with the Clowns individually. They all have very different tastes in their reading choices. I find it interesting to see what they come home with after a library visit or what books they are drawn to at a bookshop. It’s the Observer in me, I guess. 🤔
Owen is a vivacious reader. He takes either a book or his Kindle with him wherever we go. We cannot keep up with the volume of books he gets through.
We bought him the Kindle for Christmas to help keep the book storage to a minimum, although for me, nothing beats a proper paper novel.
He loves to talk about books with us and share moments from their stories, sometimes while he’s smack bang in the middle of an exciting part. He likes to discuss the characters and imagine them in larger places than just the confines of the pages.
He readily and enthusiastically recommends authors and novels to his siblings and to friends at school. I’m surprised he hasn’t thought of starting a YA Book Club…
It still amazes me that all this comes from the Clown Who Would Not Learn His Sight Words in Prep, all those years ago and struggles with orthographic dyslexia and orthographic processing. Neither of which have stopped him from challenging himself.
Upon his recommendation, I started reading The Land of Stories series with him. I am yet to catch up to Owen so today, I am starting Book 5 – An Author’s Odyssey. I love fairy tales and Chris Colfer’s take on them and their characters is always an entertaining read.
You’ll know where to find me on this rainy Thursday afternoon! Who could want more than a rainy afternoon, a good book to begin and a coffee, of course!
To set the story for you… The Clowns are all settled well with their school lives, Marc is super busy with his work, the apartment stays clean with no one home most of the week but me, and there is only so much housework I want to do anyway before I will no doubt start loosing my mind. Or maybe I become one of those people that start raging when someone doesn’t stack the dishwasher precisely, or doesn’t put something back EXACTLY where they got it from. Not close by, not sort of back but EXACTLY IN THE CORRECT PLACE.
Upon reflection, I may already be border line with this small issue… maybe…
I’ve now eventually come to the realisation that all the usual social media outlets and the messaging and the face-timing in the world just does not make up for having a real live person in front of you to talk to. Even though I love all of the above and am truly grateful that we live in such a tech advanced society, it’s just not the same as in your face contact and connection with another human being that doesn’t (always) involve the Circus…. I need to do something about this or I’m not going to cope well here in Bangkok with only the dog, four walls and the occasional chit chat with some poor customer service soul I notice can speak more than a lick of English, and lucks out and gets to serve me!
While I can be quite extroverted with my safe and cosy circle of friends and family, I’m not great in new social settings. I tend to just sit back an observe, rather than join in and let people get to know me, and I them. This is a slight hurdle for one who has left all her safety net just over seven thousand of kilometres away!
So off I go, diving head first into the realm of Expat Socialisation or Operation Make New Friends.
Scary stuff, right?!
First off, I volunteered to help in Ella’s classroom once a week with reading groups. Man, some of those kids are amazing! There are three Japanese students in her class that could not speak or read a word of English when they started at AISB. Now they are already reading simple readers and can generally understand what you are talking about. It has been so cool hearing their reading an comprehension improve, even in just the short time I’ve been helping out in the class room… Definitely a worthwhile hour out of my day. But this isn’t really helping me make any friends or meet any parents. I’m at school in the very middle of the day for reading groups, not near pick up or drop off time!
I have joined a few expat and Bangkok residents Facebook groups, which mainly consist of ads for rentals and stuff for sale… Disappointing so far, to say the least. It seems as though the same people are active in several groups and just post the same ads in each group. Not really what I’m looking for, but I haven’t given up on good old FB yet. Maybe I just haven’t searched for just the right word to lead me to a more relevant group? Watch this space…
Next, I joined Meetup. It’s an app that helps you find groups based on your location and what you are interested in. For example, you might enjoy board games so you’d search for that in your area and see what groups there are and what events they are holding. This has been the easiest place to find things to do that I would be interested in. And so far, it’s been a success. Just by joining a few groups that sounded interesting, you could easily fill your week with all sorts of events and activities, from lectures to trail walks to coffee to book clubs and more. You get the idea. Go download the app and see whats near you! Even if you are a local, you might find something new to try!
I stalked Meetup for a couple of weeks, looking at events and checking out times and locations and didn’t commit to anything. Actually, just getting to the point of joining a few groups was an accomplishment for me. And reading about what groups have planned and what they had previously done was entertainment enough in the beginning. Once I’d joined a couple of groups, some coordinators and members touched base and welcomed me, said hi, offered to answer any questions I may have etc etc. My impression was it’s generally a nice space to be in, kind of like Instagram 🙂 I got talking to one lady in particular and we ended up exchanging further details and kept chatting while she was out of the country. This week, we finally met up in person, and she introduced me to one of the Meetup groups that she regularly attends (a weekly Friday coffee and chat – perfect!). While I was hesitant, four hours of easy conversation later, I am so glad that I went along. As a bonus, Friday was a holiday in Bangkok so I dragged Marc along too and he even enjoyed himself!
Finally, I made myself join a local Pilates studio.
For three reasons :
1. To get myself out of the apartment at least twice a week
2. To get back into regular exercise
3. To hopefully find some like minded people at the studio
And I can tick all three of those goals! Back track a few days to Wednesday, where I met a lovely lady from New Zealand at my first group Pilates class, who immediately invited me to the monthly meeting of the ANZWG. Straight after our class. An opportunity not to miss, I thought, and one that didn’t have time to back out of as I had no time to overthink the situation! Perfect! Walking into an unfamiliar apartment full of Australian and New Zealand expats was a little overwhelming. But the very best part? Listening to thirty odd women talk amongst themselves (and to me), with my home country accent. It made me smile. It was music to my ears! The ANZWG wasn’t a group I was familiar with at all, but wish I had of found before we relocated. Those ladies are a wealth of knowledge, and even have a couple of publications to help newbie expats like myself to settle into life in Bangkok. I joined their organisation on the spot and am looking forward to what the 2018-2019 year brings for this group. There is much I can be a part of with this group, so I may find myself volunteering to help out on their committee in the near future…
So… Wednesday was a busy day. I also had dinner with a lovely lady who is moving to Bangkok in the coming months and was over for a few short days to suss out apartments and schools. She is someone I connected with on one of the random Facebook expat groups and we had been chatting about all things expat over the course of a couple of weeks. It seemed silly not to catch up while she was here and had time.
Another real life connection made…
That’s three in one week.
I haven’t had that much social interaction since we left Brisbane!
Now I’ve dipped my toe in, I am also going to research Air bnb experiences and classes that are available in Bangkok and surrounds. While there may not be anything for me to do in the immediate future, when we have guests come and stay, doing a cool food tour or cooking class would be a great option to just seeing all the usual touristy things!
You know how you have those holidays throughout the year that you treasure more than others? Well, Easter is one of those holidays for me. And I think I can confidently speak for the rest of the Circus and say it’s one of their favourite holidays too. It’s not even because there is chocolate involved!
*Although that does help 😉
So, with that knowledge in hand, we thought we might have what will be our first major bout of homesickness over the weekend. The Easter long weekend. Almost a non-event in Bangkok. Well actually, pretty much a total non-event in Bangkok….
A normal Easter for us in Australia? Well, the long long weekend would usually consist of egg hunts, BBQs and catch ups galore with our friends and family, hideous amounts of chocolate consumed (Easter chocolate totally doesn’t count), fires and marshmallows, new winter flannelette pjs for the kids (and usually us adults too!), floured EB paw prints, earlier sunsets and a change into the cooler months of Autumn (my absolute favourite season). And if it isn’t all of the above, it’s four days spent camping (and doing some of the above!)…
So, you can see why we thought everyone, including Marc and I, would be feeling out of sorts and missing all our favourite people more than normal. It doesn’t help that we also have a whole of of birthdays around Easter, so the catch ups become even more special when it isn’t only about the chocolate.
Friday. Good Friday. All social media is filled with Easter fun and baking and people starting their holidays. I actually had to stop looking… It sucked. And I started feeling sorry for myself, which isn’t a great place to be. Thankfully, and completely by accident, Marc had an annual leave day so we got to just hang out while the Clowns were at school. Hello $13 hour long massage and an uninterrupted coffee date…!
Saturday was ordinary and then weird. We hit up the Ekamai Organic Farmer’s Market to bring home Ella’s weight in french breads and did all the usual Saturday things. We didn’t even leave out a carrot for the EB. Nor did we put out the few eggs we did manage to find for the Clowns. They would have melted overnight! Weird. Really weird parenting moment. I imagine that’s what it will feel like when we don’t do Santa presents anymore… Hopefully that’s a long time away though!
Sunday. Easter Sunday. When I had a mild panic that we didn’t wake up to three crazy excited kids who had discovered what the EB had left for them. Ahhh nope! It was the complete opposite actually! They totally understood that Thai’s don’t celebrate Easter, as a gross generalisation, so it’s not a recognised holiday for them. That’s why they didn’t see aisles and aisles of chocolates in the shops, or adverts for Easter services, or egg hunts in the park etc etc… And they really took it in their stride. They were super happy with their two small token eggs each and they were excited that we had found some Easter activity to go to for the afternoon, and that we let them eat ginormous chocolate croissants for lunch. Winning!
So that brings me to today. Easter Monday. The Clowns have gone to school and Marc has gone to work, like any normal Monday. Today has been OK. Productive. Good even.
*Not counting that I may have broken the washing machine… oops!
We survived the weekend that was. Without tantrums or whinging or sadness or homesickness. I am chalking that up to a win for the Circus. Marc’s only comment all weekend, funnily enough, wasn’t even about this particular weekend. He’s already thinking months ahead and mentioned that he is very thankful that our besties (Hi Mac’s!!) are coming to stay for Christmas and New Year, because that holiday season has the potential to turn into a homesick train wreck!
From all around the world!
One of the main reasons I was all for moving to Bangkok, when Marc was very unsure about suggesting we pack up our lives and those of three children (and a dog too.. we can’t forget about Rosie!) was the amazing opportunity the Clowns would have, not only living somewhere completely different and seeing another side of the world, but because they would be exposed to so many different people and cultures, just by going to an international school every day.
We have chosen where the Clowns are attending with much consideration to the fact that Owen was about to begin his high school years in Australia this year. Reuben and Ella, we weren’t as concerned for as they are still smack bang in the mix of middle primary years. They have time to adapt an embrace a different way of schooling before they tackle high school as well.
Anyway, back to our schooling choice…. In Thailand, the school year runs fairly similar to Australia and follows the seasons, but since their Summer is mid year the school year begins in August and runs though until June.
So… We have started the Clowns in the grades they completed in 2017 – Owen is in grade 6, Reuben grade 3 and Ella in grade 2, until the 2018-19 year starts in August. then they will move up grades along with their new classmates. We thought it would give all of the Clowns time to focus on getting to know the school and their classmates with less pressure on their academic focus, as they will basically be revisiting the last term of the grades they have just completed in Australia. Long winded, but I hope that makes sense?
Now, onto the actual school the Clowns are attending… This is something that we researched a whole lot, before we even relocated or started looking for our home. Where we are living was narrowed down to being close to the BTS for Marc to get to work easily and for close access to school.
Thankfully we were able to chose a school that runs the Australian curriculum, (hopefully!) making the transition even easier for the Clowns.
The Australian International School Bangkok is a smaller school than what we are used to, running all grades up to eight at the moment. The classes are half or less than those of the Clowns old school (I think Ella has 12 or 13 children in her class) with grades running a maximum of fours streams. The strangest thing for the Clowns to get used to? No vast green outdoor spaces! Living in Bangkok, land is at a premium, so the school buildings are storeys high, with play space/green space a lot smaller than what they are used to. The classes are on a play time rotation, so everyone gets a chance to really expend some energy and run around.
Class rooms are very spacious (there’s not as many desks with so many less kids per room!) and they are sun filled, bright, colourful and welcoming spaces (but also lovely and air conditioned!!). There are many Australian teachers. Owen and Ella both have Aussie teachers this year. Reuben’s teacher is from America.
Here’s what the Clowns all thought of their fist day. Please excuse the moving mess in the background – we are waiting for the removal company to pick up our empty boxes.
We chose to pay for the schools meals as well as the bus service to pick up an drop off the Clowns – something I am very thankful for today! Initially I had thought we would meet the bus somewhere on our street, but nope! They drive right up to our building. It’s been storming all morning, and the bus picks the Clowns up from our front door right and goes to their building at school, and repeated in the afternoon. Much better than arriving at school drenched!
Big things have happened around the Circus of late. Those of you, lovely readers, who follow our travels through Instagram have seen us pack up our lives, rent out our little house in the ‘burbs of northern Brisbane, say teary ‘see you later’s’ to our friends and family and make our first international flight as a family to Thailand, to make it our new home.
Yes. Yes. And yes!
For the moment, we are living full hotel life mode out of our suitcases, before we can move into our apartment and properly settle in to the amazing city of Bangkok. Rosie flies over from Australia soon too. She’s not missing out on our adventures!
Hotel living sounds like the dream, right? Well…. It is. And it isn’t. With three loud, very much outdoorsy clowns to keep occupied, there isn’t much r&r going on! On the other hand, there is the daily serviced room that I look forward to every afternoon… Fresh towels and linen and beds made by someone else? I’ll take that everyday… To me, that is a luxury that will be missed once we leave our hotel.
Marc’s two minute commute to work will be something that will be sad to leave as well.
And the decent wifi that the Clowns (and I) are making the most of, FaceTiming friends and family and playing online games with their buddies has helped them transition a little. The small three hour time difference helps a whole lot too.
Eating out and the daily, sometimes more than daily, trip to the local Tops Market has become a habit. I will be happy to have the coffee machine, thermie and slow cooker back once we move. While eating out for most meals seems like it would be great (no prep and no cleaning up!!) – the decisions for five people have become too hard after a week of meal negotiations and menu preferences. Some nights we have ordered room service just so we don’t have to go out again for another meal. Tough life, right?! But the food (even the room service) is fantastic. I can’t wait to try more places and share them with you!
School starts for them in a few weeks time, and they will hopefully enjoy the diversity that comes with attending an international school. I can’t wait for them to start, and they are (now) keen to make a start.
In the meantime, we are keeping ourselves busy by exploring on foot and making the most of the BTS line to navigate our way around the area. The clowns have seen some pretty cool things and have been exposed to a very different culture and way of life already.
I’m sure there is a lot that Thailand has to show and teach us!
I look up. Sometimes. I need to look up more. I find I get stuck in a looking down rut at times. And that’s sometimes interesting, but mostly means I’m in rush mode or get all the things done mode. And that’s not always happy or helpful to my frame of mind or mood.
But when I look up?
The sky is refreshing and recharging and perspective shifting.
I try and bake at least one or two things for the Clowns lunch boxes on a Sunday. It makes everyone’s lives heaps easier and a little more organised in that crazy weekday morning rush!
So today I decided to make a few of Leilah’s (AKA Thermomumma) super easy and delicious recipes. If you are looking for anything bread related, her recipes have always worked beautifully for me and they taste great!
Starting with Leilah’s Cheese and Bacon Rolls, which I made into baby sized portions. That way I can use them for snacks as well as lunches. I have made this recipe loads of times, and it is always a winner with the Clowns.
Finger Buns were next on the baking list. Again, super easy to make. I made them a bit smaller too as I don’t think my kids lunch boxes need a normal sized finger bun for their morning tea!
Lastly, today I tried out the Blueberry and Choc Chip Muffins. Except I replaced the blueberries with raspberries. They smell aaaahhhhhmazing!
Do you? Do you say no to things, completely (or almost) guilt free? I used to be in the Say Yes to Everything! camp. And it was stressful. For me. And usually ONLY for me. Over extending and putting unnecessary pressure and stress on myself, just so I wouldn’t have to say that dreaded word…. And if I did have to say no, I had to have a mega super important reason why. So I could justify the No….
Ridiculous because the recipient of the No doesn’t really need to know the why or the why not, nor need understand your choice.
So I had a little pep talk to myself (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this?!) and took my own advice. And I started saying Guiltlessly No! when I saw red flags for me and/or for the rest of my family.
So I have said Guiltlessly No! to a few kids parties that were going to stretch out a fun day to a really long and tiring day/night, or we had overlapping commitments. I have said Guiltlessly No! to volunteering for a few school projects, one big one being the biannual carnival. I have said Guiltlessly No! to family events, especially ones that really don’t suit our routines come Sunday afternoon/evening. I have said Guiltlessly No! to some recent girls nights out, which are usually great and fun and good therapy for the soul, however they also impact everyone else in my family. Probably the biggest Guiltlessly No! I have said is to the Clowns going to our school carnival, endless cues and crowds and Clowns who weren’t really keen to take part in their class performances (all not compulsory) meant we chose to miss it this year.
And everyone is still OK!
Do you know what? Life around the Big Top is calmer and a little less hectic for all my/our Guiltlessly No! calls. And I am really happy about that and I can see the Clowns and Marc are too. Slower weekends mean more productive Clowns during the week. We are getting more little projects started (and finished!) around the house. Monday mornings are not so hit and miss now.
I have stopped feeling the need to explain my invitation declines. But this was hard in the beginning!! I have hardly any problem saying no to something that I know immediately is going to mean me running around like a crazy person trying to fit everything and everyone in. And if I’m not sure, or want to check with Marc first, I can happily and comfortably state this to the person and get back to them with a response. Before, I would have committed to the thing without hesitation and without thinking it through first. And then just made it work. Somehow. Crazy, I know!
Saying Yes! to commitments and people has also become easier. We now have clearer priorities, workable boundaries and windows of time to play with (hello Google synced calendars!!). Happily Saying Yes! has been an unexpected byproduct of my Guiltlessly No! project.
Guiltlessly No! has made a big, positive difference for us. Do you think it would help your family too?