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!!)

Snapshots from my first month back in BKK

Uh… whoops. Another delayed post – sorry. And even though half my posts recently have begun with an excuse, I still feel compelled to offer yet another. So let’s just say that there’s a creature in my gut who’s been sucking all my brain power/memory/sense of time lately. Some days I’m amazed that I even manage to dress myself. Good thing no-one’s life is depending on me right now. Oh wait…

Coming back to Bangkok after a month in Canada has been just a real slice o’ life. On one hand, Bannock and I were both pretty pleased to be reunited with her father (she signalled her joy by slamming all her limbs into my ribs). It has also been great to move into our new apartment, see my Bangkok friends again, and trigger severe acid reflux by eating massive quantities of pineapple. On the other hand, I’ve had to undergo some not-so-fun medical tests, watched my ankles fluctuate between “bony” and “tree trunk-esque” on a regular basis, and felt a little bereft after leaving my families, friends, and Percy the Miniature Horse behind.

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On the other hand, I got to meet this doll when I subbed for the two-year-olds. It appears to be a creepy cloth version of Todd as a baby. Bannock, please don’t look like this.

On that merry note, here are a few snapshots from my first month back in Bangkok: apologies if they are a little heavy (ha!) on the pregnancy end of the spectrum. Somehow, the knowledge that I will have to basically shove a watermelon through a straw in 2 months has completely hijacked my brain.

1. Thai Culture Class

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, and either have a good memory or are my mother, you may recall that I had to spend a significant chunk of time in Thai Culture Class around this time last year. It is a mandatory course for all teachers at international schools in Thailand, and I took it along with all the new teachers at the school. I have vague memories of making a lot of random crafts out of a lot of random materials, dancing around in Thai loincloths, and sitting through loooong discussions of Thailand’s kingly succession. It had some good moments, but I think we were all pleased when we “graduated.” Imagine my delight when I discovered that I had to take the course again this year. Apparently, because I entered Thailand last year without a teaching visa, the course didn’t count, and I would have to retake it if I wanted to continue subbing. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I succumbed to my fate, and found myself spending three days with a bunch of Swiss and British teachers at one of Bangkok’s swankier international schools. Surprisingly, Thai history hadn’t changed much in the course of a year. The food at the Culture Class, however, had. No offence to T-bone’s school, but whatever they served us last year paled in comparison to the spread at Patana school. Whenever the classes got dull, I would distract myself by dreaming of the lunch buffet. That, and watching my ankles swell before my eyes.

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Last year. When I still had ankles and a waist.

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And this year. I think I need to invest in some new facial expressions.

2.  Last *sniff* bike ride

After it took us a solid year to actually buy bikes in Bangkok, I was a little depressed when I realized that it was probably time to sell mine – I’m getting bulky’n’awkward, and we need to make space for more baby schtuff in our apartment. And as much as I like to picture the three of us going on family bike rides after Bannock is born, I have come to terms with the fact that that just ain’t gonna happen. So Todd and I took our bikes out for one last adventure in the “Green Lung” of Bangkok, a community/park that is almost an island in the Chao Phraya river.

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Bannock was well protected

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You should always wear head protection on a ferry.

“Leisurely” would be one way to describe our speed. When we finally got home, Todd started putting together an advertisement to sell the bike.

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Which one of you idiots wants to buy my bike? Huh!?!

Before he even posted the ad, one of our teacher friends offered to buy the bike. All I can say is, Wes, you had better actually take it off our hands, because Todd made me spend an entire evening posing on that durned thing.

3. Fun tests/parental guilt

There’s nothing the medical community seems to enjoy more than springing random tests on pregnant women. I have peed in so many cups over the last few months that I’ve lost count. And my technique still hasn’t improved (if anyone has any hot tips, please share). A particularly enjoyable test that I got to indulge in was the blood glucose test. Basically, you swig a cup full of pure sugar, and then have your blood taken an hour later – this helps determine if you’re at risk for gestational diabetes. I did it one better – I drank a litre of orange juice for lunch, and then I swigged the sugar mixture. Looking back, this may not have been the wisest choice, as, lo and behold, my test results came back showing elevated sugar levels, and my doctor told me I had to do the extended version of the test. Most humans would merely be annoyed at the inconvenience, but I am feeling a little “special” these days: I spent the evening weeping, convinced that my over-consumption of Magnum bars during my first trimester was going to lead to my poor child being a 13lb colossus. Welcome to the world of parental guilt. After fasting overnight, I hauled myself back to the hospital to chug the Kool-aid again. I don’t know how this is possible, but it contained twice the sugar that the previous test did. I then experienced the rare privilege of having my blood drawn FOUR times over the next three hours, as I continued to fast/tried not to pass out. I hate needles, but once I remembered that I was going to have to actually give birth to a human in a few months, I stopped feeling sorry for my current self, and started feeling sorry for my future self.

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Note how my forearm is arranged so artistically next to the word “Laboratory”

4. Stuff students say

This post is already way too long, but I have to share a few of my favourite lines from students that I have subbed for regarding my burgeoning figure:

“Is that fat or a baby?”  13-year-old boy

“Is Mr. Todd the father?” 16-year-old boy

“You and Ms. Therese are both pregnant, but you are waaay bigger” 17-year-old girl (said with a look of utter confusion. Apparently, Ms. Therese is the prototype for pregnancy, and anyone else is a deviation from the standard. I had to explain the concept of “different due dates” to her).

And finally, the look of utter glee and shock on the faces of two twelve-year-old boys when I informed them that, yes, I am indeed pregnant. They looked as though I had just told them the best, dirtiest joke. I still can’t figure it out.

I’m starting to wonder if these students have ever taken a health class, or interacted with a pregnant woman before. Just doin’ my bit for humanity.

And let’s finish off with one last picture, because it is too good not to use. Our friend Jessica turned 18.* I think the world would be a better place if we all just publicly embraced our birthdays.

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Leaving no doubt as to who the birthday girl is.

*Give or take a decade

The (not so) Real Bangkok: a visit to Ancient City

Back in October, Todd ran a road race in a park called Ancient City (you can read the post here). It was a pretty rad park, but we didn’t see much of it – Todd was too busy hauling his ageing body around the course, and I was too busy screaming “go haaaaaard!!” at random, baffled British children, and checking out the classy port-a-potties. We decided we needed to go back and see the park properly, so this past Saturday, we grabbed Vera (main talent: being a dead ringer for the Korean chick on “Cloud Atlas”) and Therese (main talent: thought manipulation) and headed for the park.

I was a little taken aback by the hefty entrance fee, but I got over it when I saw the awesome bicycles that the fee included:

Built for comfort (the bicycles, I mean)

A crocodile bicycle: my dream come true

Ancient City (Thai: Mueang Boran) contains replicas of a variety of Thai historical sites. From the official website:

  • Just a visit to the Ancient City is comparable to a Thailand-round journey within a day.
  • The layout preserves the pattern of traditional Thai lifestyles, which is hard to behold nowadays

Our visit was pretty short (we only had 1.5 hours before we had to head back to the stix), so I figure we made a quarter Thailand-round journey. Because of our short time frame (and my shorter attention span), I didn’t read many signs, so don’t ask me for a history lesson. I can, however, vouch for the ambience, and the coolness factor – both were right on.

The temple provides the ambience, the farangs provide the, uh, coolness factor

There were also a lot of fun statues in the park, including these fighting elephants. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying in battle than being hauled off your perch by an angry, flailing trunk.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll be safe if I hide by his massive, thundering foot.

This was another fun statue in the park – a bunch of horses and gods go to battle together. The best part of the statue was the artificial mist being released from the rocks.

So historical, it’s almost lost in the mists of time.

We bought fresh coconuts from a long-tail boat that was floating near the replica of a traditional village.

Peeping Tom Todd creeps on the villagers

I could handle living here

Unfortunately, Therese is almost as obsessed as Todd is with birds, and as soon as one flew into sight, they were all over it. Turns out Vera also likes a good chirp. They were throwing around terms like long-breasted-short-beaked-angry-footed-booby-clucker, so I meandered around and took a few more photos.

Not sure what it is, but it looks cool.

Also very cool. The gazebo looks really romantic from afar, but when you get closer, it’s full of carvings of angry, multi-headed snakes. Whatever does it for you.

I made Todd give me a ride on his bike to make up for the delay. This bike would be the ultimate family bike: you could put one kid on the front seat, and another in the basket. Now that’s what I call family time.

Unparalleled comfort AND style

Before we made it back to the entrance, I had to snap one last photo:

Vera looking picture perfect next to a replica of Ayutthaya

Ancient City filled us so full of Thai history (and birds) that we decided to give our culture-filled brains a rest, and went for Mexican food with our American compadres.

Hmmm. Not much history/culture going on here.

I’m guessing Ancient City will lure me back again, though – the combination of immaculate history and crocodile bicycles is just too much to resist. And besides, where else can you get a Thailand-round tour in just one day?

North Face Khao Yai Trail Race

I hafta tell you all, I was a pretty decent wife to begin with, but my sacrifice this past weekend basically assured my position in the stratosphere of wifely superstardom. For the second time this year, I hauled myself out of bed in the wee hours to cheer at one of T-bone’s races. Neither the fact that this race involved spending a weekend with 15 of our friends in a gorgeous national park nor the fact that I still owe Todd approximately 10hrs of cheering time should detract from the enormity of this sacrifice.

Anything for you, dear.

The race took place in Khao Yai (literally: “big mountain”) national park, an area 2.5 hrs north of Bangkok. The race was put on by North Face, and the main focus of the event was a 100km trail race. North Face also, however, kindly provided a few events for mere mortals: 10, 25, and 50km distances. All the runners from our group signed up for the 10km event, except Cheerleader Michelle, who chose to race the 25km. Cheerleader Michelle has so much energy, though, that 25km to her is like 5km to the average person. Here is a quick visual of her unparalleled perkiness as she heaves our friend Sean into the air:

“So basically you just get your spirit fingers going…”

“and BAM! You start to fly. So easy.”

I wasn’t quite a good enough wife to show up for the start of the race, but I did roll in before the finish. My fellow Super-(almost)Wife Jaime joined me on the sidelines, and we took it upon ourselves to make up for the cheering deficit that seems to be a feature of races in Thailand.

So excited that I’m unexpectedly giving birth.

The start that later became the finish.

Things got pretty exciting pretty quick: would the organizers manage to find the finish line tape before the first runner blasted through? Would the van cruising down the race course realize its mistake before blocking the finish line? Would the children’s dance troupe safely cross the course without getting trampled? And how much swag could spectators safely snag?

And would Todd (with Josh) be able to hide from his wife’s camera behind a bit of safety tape? Negatory.

These were the important questions that we pondered as we waited for the runners. It didn’t take long – first up was Todd’s little running buddy and student, Alex, who showed the adults how its done by coming in 12th in a field of 500. The teachers pushed their aging joints to the max, and while they didn’t quite catch Alex, they posted some very respectable times.

Eli finishing strong. You know that when both the object AND the background are blurry, you have achieved photographic mastery.

Lisa hammers it home. This gal actually takes decent photos, and she was not giving my point’n’click ANY eye contact.

First up after the race was a little breakfast – Pad Thai and fried rice. I don’t know about you, but immediately after I race, fat and spice are two of the last things I feel like eating. Mind over bladder matter, I guess…

Fish sauce and sugar sound pretty awesome, on the other hand.

Meagan, Ali, Therese, and Kim wait for the sweat to dry.

Two fun perks of races in Thailand are the Thai massages offered after the race.

And the inevitable elephants.

All in all, a good morning spent eating Pad Thai and screaming at runners. Such a good wife. Here’s hoping that next year my ankles will work and I, too, can dodge banana-mongers, vans, and child dancers on a gorgeous course.

Did Aung San Suu Kyi Ever Go Outside?

(I wasn’t sure whether to post this on my regular blogroll, or under “Ruminations” – it runs the emotional gamut. I guess I’ll just file it under both.)

Last night, I went to an event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT). My jet-setting friends/gurus Eli and Therese have tried to persuade me to accompany them to club events several times, and I finally caved. My post-thesis world news hiatus needs to end, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start. The event was a screening of the film “Aung San Suu Kyi: The Choice” a BBC documentary about the confinement of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political hero, followed by a question period with the filmmakers.

The room was full of hardened reporters.

Yaarrr. These peeps know The News.

We tried to fit in by looking suitably profound.

The Gurus doing a pretty good job of it.

Southern Belle Jacqueline and I struggled.

The film was a moving portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi. While I was aware of the basic details of her imprisonment (20 years of house arrest in Burma), I wasn’t aware that she had a family in the UK, or that the Myanmar junta would have allowed her to go to the UK (but not return to Burma afterwards). The film, while subtle, explored the choice that she made: to remain in Burma while in the UK, her sons were growing up and her husband was dying of cancer. It raised many more questions than it answered. I’m not sure that there’s any point in speculating as to whether she made the “right” choice or not, but the story did give a fuller picture of the sacrifices that she made, both for herself and on behalf of her family. While it was sad to learn that her husband died of cancer while she chose to remain in prison, it was a choice that they made together. It was far sadder to watch the intimate portrait of her sons, and to see how damaged they were by their parents’ choices. It is interesting to draw a parallel between Suu Kyi’s story and that of Benazir Bhutto. There are many similarities, but Bhutto eventually chose exile rather than house arrest. I wonder what would have happened in Burma if Suu Kyi had made a similar choice.

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After the film, there was a question period with the filmmakers.

Filmmaker Marc Eberle in the foreground.

It brought me back to the halcyon days of academic conferences, where the questioners always seemed more eager to display their immense knowledge of a topic rather than to ask genuine questions. In this case, however, it was less “let me show you how smart I am,” and more “let me show you how intimately acquainted I am with this particular political prisoner.” The question period went something like this:

Filmmaker: “Interestingly enough, during her house arrest, Suu Kyi rarely went outside. She would only go into the garden for photo shoots.”

Questioner: “Well, I remember when I visited her in 1988, she loved to feed the rooks in the garden using a small handful of bread, blahblahblah, so you see, she DID like to go outside.”

It was a bit disappointing, particularly after the film offered so much real food for thought. After 30 minutes or so of this, we attempted to discreetly sneak out, but you can only be so discreet when you’re sitting in the front row. Oops.

Even though I could have done without the question-period posturing, I did appreciate the film, and it gave me some real food for thought. I’m slowly emerging from world news hibernation.