Bangkok: A parenting paradise

It hit me recently that the first few months of my li’l Pork Chop’s life are a bit different than what they would have been if she was born in Canada. Bangkok just offers that uniquely potent combination of fumes/crowds/swamps’n’drama that is guaranteed to simultaneously give parents a heart attack, and make babies’ mouths water. I’m just relieved that Pork Chop is still relatively immobile, or she would probably cram this whole city into her gaping, expectant maw. Here are a few bits of the excitement that give our day-to-day life that extra bit of oomph.

1. Protests

Hmmmm. Not even really sure where to begin with this one. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I like to provide an up-to-the-minute cogent analysis of world events for my readers, but motherhood has seriously killed off most of the ol’ gray matter. So I will do my best to summarize the protests that have rocked the city over the past few months: some people “strongly dislike” Yingluck Shinawatra, the current prime minister of Thailand, and would prefer that she no longer run this country. This is for a variety of reasons, including 1) her government has attempted to pardon her brother – the former prime minister of Thailand – of the corruption charges against him, which would allow him to return to Thailand from his self-imposed exile, and 2) Yingluck’s government has bought rice from Thailand’s farmers at above market prices in an attempt to win votes and manipulate world rice prices (unfortunately Thailand is not the only rice producing nation in the world, so this attempt at a rice monopoly failed). Also, 3) as world leaders go, Yingluck is seriously hot, so jealously may also be a factor.

Anywayzzzz, this has led to a bunch of protests, which have gotten violent at times. The protesters like to congest already congested areas, so we sometimes found ourselves in situations like this when we were out and about with Pork Chop:

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But this being Thailand, there is usually live music, lots of food, and “protest fashion” to be found.

Currently, there are protests against the protests happening. It’s anyone’s guess how it will all turn out.* In the meantime, Yingluck continues to look extremely attractive as she faces the anti-corruption committee.

2. Garbage fires:

A few weeks ago, Todd unexpectedly got to work from home for a few days. When you’re a teacher, these opportunities don’t come up that often (apparently “consistency” is good for kids), so this was a real treat. Unfortunately, the unexpected home time resulted from a huge fire at a garbage dump in Samut Prakan, the district that Todd’s school is in. I never knew that “managing a dump” could be such a great avenue for criminal activity, but apparently these dump managers finagled it – there were tons/loads/heaps/mounds (insert your favourite garbage-related word here) of illegal toxic waste buried in all that innocent trash, which created clouds of billowing fumes. The immediate area was evacuated, and many schools within the district went on hiatus.

garbage fire

In the immediate vicinity of the fire

We fortunately do not live in Samut Prakan, but the air near our apartment was still rather “aromatic.” We spent several days inside, allowing Pork Chop to breathe the pure air of our ailing A/C units (that sometimes mysteriously smell of urine).

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But Daddy is home, so it’s all good.

When Todd’s school administration could no longer physically see chunks in the air, the party was over.

3.Sidewalks

This is less of an event, and more of an everyday occurrence. Basically, the only way that Pork Chop leaves the house is in her Ergo carrier.

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Leaving the hospital. This was my best attempt at good posture.

This is not because we are crunchy parents obsessed with baby-wearing: it is because there is no other (reasonable) way to take her anywhere.** We have a stroller, but we mainly use it for pushing Pork Chop to the 7/11 next to our apartment to stock up on fish sauce and chocolate soy milk. We can’t push it anywhere useful, because the sidewalks near our apartment look like this:

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Yes, that is a car parked on the sidewalk. What the photo doesn’t show is the motorcycles that routinely speed by ON THE SIDEWALK.

So, when we take the stroller to the train station, we end up doing a lot of this:

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So easy! Just huck Pork Chop inside, fold it up, and Bob’s yer uncle!

Which gets a little tiresome after awhile. Also, sometimes there is wildlife on the sidewalk:

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Fortunately, those two girls in the background stopped us before we walked by it. So we avoided the snake by walking on the busy road.

So poor Pork Chop ends up angrily baking on my chest in the 35 C weather and breaking my back in the process. We take taxis when it’s really necessary, but that isn’t a great solution, because there is no way to strap in a car seat. So she is once again in her Ergo.

If anyone has a brilliant solution to this problem, I am all ears!

4. Old Farang Men

Oh wow. I could dedicate a year’s worth of blog posts to the strange, strange world of Old Farang Men in Thailand. Of course, there are many who are just sweet old dudes. But there are many, many, who are not, and who probably perma-moved to Thailand to escape the constraints of polite behaviour imposed on them by their home countries. I thought having a baby on my chest would spare me the awkward interactions, but I think they have actually increased. Witness the following conversation:

Setting: Inside an elevator at my friend’s apartment building. I am with my friends Therese and Kelley, and we all have squirming babies on our chests. An older farang gentleman gets on. He and Therese proceed to have the following conversation:

Therese (apologetically) “You got on the lucky elevator.”

Old Farang Man: “Haha. Yeah. Did you guys have a foursome?”

Therese: “Uh… haha. Uh…”

Old Farang Dude: “That would make a good movie plot, wouldn’t it?”

Therese: “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

I wanted to take a shower with bleach to wash that little interaction away. You can’t make this stuff up.

I don’t have an appropriate photo to share, but google “Old Farang Men,” and you will get an eyeful. Here is one of Pork Chop and her friend Anya instead:

photo (2)

And those are just a few of the highlights of parenting in Bangkok. As I contemplate moving back to Canada, I am relieved that Pork Chop will have cleaner air to breathe, and won’t have to angrily writhe on my chest in the heat. But I can’t lie, I’m going to miss some of the drama of parenting in Bangkok. Minus the Old Farang Men.

 

*Anyone who is actually educated about the situation wouldn’t have to guess.

** I guess we could throw her on the back of a motorbike like some of the locals do, but I think her grandparents would object.

5 thoughts on “Bangkok: A parenting paradise

  1. You may be pleased – or not – to know that the fourth image that comes up when you Google “old farang men” is that picture of Anya and Zoe.

  2. Great article! We are expecting our first boy here and are considering the ergo…we drive so a stroller will be easier for us but I want to carry too.

    Did you find the normal ergo original too hot for “Pork Chops”?! I am trying to decide whether to go for the original or the performance, which has a more mesh-like fabric that should be cooler?

    • Congratulations on your little boy!

      I haven’t tried the Ergo performance, but mesh-like fabric sounds like a good idea to me. I really liked the Ergo overall, but it certainly got warm for both me and Pork Chop. The other thing to consider is that the Ergo is NOT a good option for newborns in hot places. In order to make the carrier supportive enough for a newborn, you need to use the infant insert. This works fine in cold climates, but in the heat, it is awful. I used it once with Pork Chop when she was 2 weeks old, and when I got to my destination, she was crying, red, and soaked in sweat. That was the last time I used the insert! I ended up borrowing a Baby Bjorn carrier from a friend, and used it until Pork Chop was almost three months old. At that point, I was able to stuff some padding into the bottom of the Ergo, and made it work until she was 4 months old, and could sit with legs out.

      Some of my friends used various wraps (e.g., the Moby) and slings. These are great for floppy, lightweight newborns. If you are open to buying more than one carrier, I would recommend a wrap for the early days, and the Ergo for when baby boy is a bit older. You could continue to use the wrap when he is older, but if he is heavy like my munchkin, the Ergo offers more support.

      There is a babywearing club in Bangkok, and they offer great advice if you have any problems with fitting a carrier properly. I’m not sure if they meet regularly, but you should be able to find them on Facebook.

      Sorry for the essay! Best of luck!

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