Guest Post: How to be a tourist

My sister Sarah just left after spending 2.5 weeks with us. She decided that it was extremely important for her to influence the development of Zoe’s personality as much as possible in these early, impressionable days, so she ditched the first weeks of her university semester for some time in the tropics. I’m not sure that Zoe even realizes that she has a “personality” just yet, but Sarah was determined to try.

Whispering instructions to Zoe while she sleeps...

Whispering instructions to Zoe while she sleeps…

Sarah also got to satisfy her lifelong wish of being my twin. “Apparently,” when we younger, I refused to wear matching clothes, but as a parting gift, I agreed to be twinners for one evening.

Nursing mothers should generally avoid owl/hooter paraphernalia...

Nursing mothers should generally avoid owl/hooter paraphernalia…

And finally, she achieved her greatest ambition by writing a guest post for this blog. All I can say is that I hope that some of her guidelines are facetious, because otherwise they are the worst advice I’ve ever read.

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Guest Post:

 

I came to Thailand for 2.5 weeks to visit Ruth, Todd and Zoe. Because my stay was short, I wanted it to be sweet so I decided in my time off from being an influential auntie, I would be a tourist. There is no better place to be a tourist than Thailand and I thrust myself into the lifestyle with abandon.P1030869 In the past two weeks I have really learned how to be a perfect tourist, so let me share the tricks of the trade with you

  1. Learn as little of the local language as possible. Hello, thank you. That’s all you need.
  2. ALWAYS have a camera with you. If you are travelling alone and suck at selfies, just make a friend for a day. Stop every time you see something unusual and pose in front of it. Remember, if you don’t have a photo, you weren’t there
    PROTON. never seen that before. gotta get a pic!

    PROTON. never seen that before. gotta get a pic!

     

  3. You can wear whatever you want because you don’t understand the customs. If you want to be a bit respectful, there are several ethnic groups who will not only push the limits, they will stomp naked on those limits then pose for pictures. Use these groups to help determine what isn’t appropriate.
  4. If something bothers you or you get cheated, feel free to yell about it. The seller won’t see you again, so no harm right?
  5. Try any weird food you can. If it tastes terrible, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you tried something cultural.

    who am I kidding, these prawns are the reason I would move to Thailand

    who am I kidding, these prawns are the reason I would move to Thailand

  6. Spend exorbitant amounts on purses. They are real leather after all.

    I can't believe it's not leather!

    I can’t believe it’s not leather!

  7. Make friends with other tourists. You can swap stories about all the things you have done and comfort yourself with the knowledge that they know as little about the culture as you do.we wore these hats to fit in...

If you follow these 7 easy steps, you will be a successful tourist. Just a reminder, if you are caught doing something rude or disrespectful, please lie about the country you are from. Since your main goal is to have a blast without having to get with the culture, you shouldn’t be worried about setting a good example, so make sure the tags on your bags don’t reveal your true identity.

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Holidaze

Happy (belated) Hohohoholidays! We’ve been pretty busy partying it up in Bangkok: The Portly Princess particularly enjoys rockin’ out at 4am (and 12am and 2:30am and 6am). It’s a good thing she’s cute…

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Are you criticizing my sleeping habits again?!

This was our first Christmas in Bangkok (we spent Christmas last year picking fights in India). It was sad to be so far from our families, but fortunately, we have a bunch of great friends in Bangkok. We thought it would be fun to give our new child-centric social life a test drive, so our dinner guests included another newborn, a one-year-old, and an extremely pregnant lady.

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Some prolific procreation goin’ on here, folks

We weren’t ambitious enough to tackle a turkey dinner. Instead, we had a potluck with “food” as the theme. While it was sad to miss the usual butchered clucker, the assortment of substitutes were pretty great.

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Part of the spread

I didn’t realize it during my pregnancy, but December is the best month to give birth – already having a wonky post-baby body PLUS the insane calorie requirements of nursing means feasting with no guilt! At least that’s what I told myself…

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My first plate. Is it bad that I went for thirds… (not including dessert)

The combination of two newborns and a one-year-old meant that someone was always soothing a floppy bobblehead or prying The Anglican Book of Common Prayer out of little clutching fingers, but a good time was had by all.

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Whoops! I think Rina and I mixed our babies up…

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Soon-to-be-father Zach practices his infant feeding technique

New Years Eve was simultaneously less and more eventful than Christmas. Less eventful, because we were lame and stayed home on New Years Eve, but more eventful because a visitor arrived unexpectedly…

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She does a lot of unexpected things

My sister Sarah’s flight was supposed to arrive on New Years Eve just before midnight. Turns out that itineraries are not always accurate. As I was rocking Zoe at 5am on the morning of New Years Eve, I heard a knock on the door. Even in my sleep-deprived stupor, the timing seemed a little weird, and when I looked out of our peephole, I was surprised to see our apartment’s maintenance man. He’s a very helpful guy, so I figured he was there for a non-nefarious purpose, and opened the door. In his extremely limited English, he informed me that my sister had been sleeping in the lobby of our apartment building since 2 am. Oops. Turns out her itinerary was off by almost 24 hours. Fortunately, Sarah is nothing if not competent in strange situations, and she managed to find her way from the airport to our apartment building. She phoned us and knocked on our door several times, but her sister and brother-in-law are apparently a couple of narcoleptics, and didn’t hear either. She awoke to an anxious sister hovering over her prone form. Fortunately, the visit has improved since then…

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“Soothing” her niece with the recorder

Todd went back to school today after 2 weeks of holidays – Zoe is already missing her favourite napping buddy.

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Now that the weird holiday schedule is over, it’s time to enact one of my New Years resolutions: getting my Portly Princess to stop sounding like a geriatric goat when she sleeps and keeping us all awake. The number of blog posts you see in the near future may depend on my success…

Showered with love/diapers

2 weeks ago, several of our lovely friends from school (Beth, Keeley, and Kim) organized a baby shower for me and my friend Therese. Therese is a high school English teacher at the school, and the students’ prototype for what a normal pregnant woman should look like. I blame her for all the confused looks the students give me when they witness my massiveness (the fact that I am due in November and she is due in February doesn’t seem to register – these children have grown up without health class).

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Therese is very happy to be of service.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect before I got to the shower – most of the baby showers I’ve attended in Canada have been laid-back, men-welcome affairs – and I was totally blown away with what the hostesses had prepared. For starters, the venue was awesome. Agaligo is a Victorian-style mansion with a variety of different party appropriate spaces. I was so excited to discover that the room we were in was decorated in perfect, delicate taste, EXCEPT for the dead fox in a glass case on the wall. Oh Thailand. You make me so happy.

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Jessika and I discuss the decor: “What kind of stupid fox gets itself caught in Bangkok?” “I know, right?!?”

Once I managed to heave myself back into an upright position, it was time for the party games to start. I had never even conceived (haha) of most of the games the hostesses had planned, and their attention to detail was mind-boggling. As someone who struggles with details on a daily basis (ie: remembering to wear shoes), it would never occur to me to create an anatomically correct paper uterus and a bunch of sperm with faces for a game of “pin the sperm on the uterus.” Well, maybe the idea would occur to me, but the execution would be sadly lacking, and I definitely would not have remembered to offer appropriate prizes.

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First, all the guests placed their “sperm” in the uterus…

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Then, Therese and I were spun around, and had to place our “egg” in the uterus (or was this the point where Kim was guiding me through contractions? I forget…)

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And voila! Leah and I had a baby together! She won a vase of fresh flowers, and I won… a baby.

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The female anatomy is still very confusing to Ellen.

But the games didn’t stop there: attendees also got to create collages of what my and Therese’s babies will look like, using headshots of us and our respective husbands.

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Lisa came up with a real gem.

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Oh well. At least she’s in head down position.

And then it was time to guess how big Therese and I measured around the middle. I tried not to be too offended when some guesses were off by a foot or more (and not in my favour).

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Rina is also very pregnant, though, so she took pity on me.

We also got to partake in a baby bottle chugging competition. It was fun until I realized that a little creature is going to be chugging on a certain part of my anatomy in a few weeks. Not so amusing after that…

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Rina and Sarah demonstrate their best latching faces.

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And Sarah’s competitive spirit and perfect latch win the prize. Ellen is still finding the female anatomy quite confusing.

A bunch of us lived in an apartment building last year called “Big Tree,” and until we delivered the goods, both Therese and I fielded many, many requests for a “Big Tree Baby.” So the hostesses thought it would be appropriate to create a piece of nursery art for each of us that included a “big tree.” No offence to the building, but the artwork is much, much cuter than that sewage-scented apartment ever was.

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First, she’s the perfect pregnant prototype, and now, she has a cute piece of baby art. Therese is one happy, happy camper.

Our friends also wrote messages on a bunch of diapers for those wonderful, highly-anticipated, middle-of-the-night diaper-changing sessions. Hopefully, having a little light reading material in the wee hours will wake me up enough that I don’t drop Bannock.

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Adorable Vera and dirty diapers are such a visual oxymoron.

Our friends gave us a bunch of really thoughtful gifts. I’m not going to showcase them all here, but I had to share this li’l number: crocodiles’n’ babies might be my new favourite combination.

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I did not know such epicness existed, but Katherine managed to find it.

A huge thank-you to Beth, Kim, and Keeley for planning such a great celebration. Having a baby in a different country can feel a bit crazy at times, and feeling so much support from our Bangkok community was huge for both me and Therese.

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The love in our hearts for you three is even bigger than our bellies.

And one last photo to conclude: I love a prego line-up, and this was the first time that all 5 of my pregnant friends in Bangkok were in the same room as me. Asia is severely under-populated, so we all decided to do our bit…

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Nicole – 37 weeks, Rina – 36.5 weeks, Ruth – 35 weeks, Kelley – 27 weeks, Therese – 23 weeks, Lip – 23 weeks (please don’t give me any prego rage if I got your due date wrong!!)

Bannock goes to camp

I’ve been back in Bangkok for almost 2 weeks now, but I hope you’ll humour me by reading one last post about Canada: I have some pictures of a miniature horse that I’ve been dying to share. After spending a few weeks in Calgary and Edmonton, I decided it was time to introduce Bannock to the joys of summer camp. My family has been volunteering at Pioneer Ranch Camp for a few generations,* and I usually get lured in at some point during the summer months. Plus, Bannock’s Auntie Sarah was directing camp, and she clearly needed our support. I never offer much in the way of practical support, but MAN am I good at planting myself on a couch and offering a little of the moral variety.

Meet Sarah. If you read my previous post, you may have wondered if every member of my family is overpoweringly unphotogenic. You would be correct, with one notable exception: Sarah somehow managed to absorb (by osmosis, or some other dirty trick) our entire family’s portion of photogenicness, leaving utter ruin in her wake. Here is an example:

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Both of us giving the camera a little “attitude,” with mixed results

For an additional comparison, here is the woman who gave birth to Sarah:

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I rest my case.

Bannock and I made ourselves useful at camp by helping to create a spa night for campers who had just returned from their multi-day outtrips (here I am using “spa” in the loosest sense of the word). I decided that mud masks were a necessary spa activity, so I had a bunch of mud dredged from the nasty/mucky/silt-y lake. When the campers asked me where the mud was from, I told them “it’s locally sourced and organic.” Apparently 11 year olds dig buzzwords, because this seemed to satisfy them.

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The very essence of purity

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Sarah applying pure organicness to an unsuspecting camper. The tarp just adds that certain somethin’ extra

After multiple requests, I finally visited the spa’s hair-braiding station, where a ten-year old camper eagerly manhandled my tresses. She asked me which style I wanted, and I told her to surprise me.

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The only surprise is that I’m still awake after my 10 hour styling session

After the rigours of spa night, I decided that Bannock needed a break, so we went off to find Percy the Miniature Horse. I’ve seen some small horses in my day, but I think Percy might win the prize. I like all animals, but I have an almost magnetic attraction to anything resembling dogs (or crocodiles), so Percy had no hope of escape.

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Although he gave it his best shot

We had to carefully plot our approach:

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Camouflaging ourselves behind a clump of daisies…

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Spotting our quarry

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My slouchy posture is carefully calculated to make me appear less threatening

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In Thailand, it would never be acceptable to greet someone by touching their head, but fortunately, Percy is unaware of Thai customs

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Uh… if you’re trying to meet Bannock, you’re aiming about 6 inches too low

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Showing Percy who’s BOSS

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for all of 5 seconds

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Why do my relationships with miniature horses never seem to work out?

Bannock and I also spent time transporting campers, filling water balloons, and playing the role of a pre-pregnant Virgin Mary in a skit. Not quite sure how we were chosen for this last one, but some questions are best left unasked. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Calgary to prepare for another long flight to Bangkok. It’s good to be back in Asia, but there’s definitely a part of me that’s still roaming the Canadian pastures with Percy the Miniature Horse.

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Good-bye camp. Good-bye Canada.

* Friends still remind me that my grandfather’s “prayer for the meal” at my wedding reception somehow morphed into a “soliloquy on the history/joys of camp.” Not sure where that came from, but it was memorable.