Heading South, sort of
We are now in Larchmont, having made the drive from Rensselaerville yesterday.
This afternoon into Brooklyn to stay with Katherine's brother.
That is all.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.
We are now in Larchmont, having made the drive from Rensselaerville yesterday.
Some new photos of Jack (and other people) by request from a little girl in London
All bundled up for a trip outside.
Where the hell are we? Where are our palm trees and mango tree that are supposed to be in the front yard? Where's the warmth? AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
We woke up this morning in Rensselaerville, tucked safely into our beds at Katherine's mom and stepdad's place.
Last evening at the Sunset Bar on Tuesday night.
6 bags checked, 3 bags carried on, one baby and one carseat carried on, one snap and go stroller gate checked for retrieval in Narita for our transfer to the next flight.
Five hours later arrived in Narita sans stroller. Where is it? Who knows?
Now 3 carry ons and one kid in a carseat lugged to our next gate.
About 5 hours into our 11 hour flight to Chicago and we've run out of things to entertain Jack with.
About 8 hours into the 11 hour flight to Chicago. Everyone asleep...except...
Jack was actually really good for about 90% of the flight. He didn't sleep much, but he didn't complain much either.
And here we are...home....er...well, in an O'hare Airport Hilton. Seems someone decided to dump snow on the east coast so we are waitlisted for tomorrow morning 7:55 and onward, with confirmed seats on the first available flight, which is 9:15 pm SUNDAY.
Here's hoping that our business class tickets vault us to the front of the line and at least two people (3 would be better) miss the flight tomorrow morning.
We are packed.
Click here(and wait for the ad to go play through...then you'll get to the good stuff).
Laos has reported its first two human deaths from Avian Influenza. One man from Vientiane Province and one woman from about 1 KM from our house.
Vone's niece is about 2 weeks older than Jack. Vone's mother suggested a future marriage was a possibility. They marry them off young here, I guess.
A good idea. Then Vone can be Jack's aunt-in-law.
Jack and I are well-protected for our journey back to the U.S. All 32 Khuan (spirit-type things) have been safely returned to our bodies and are being held hostage by the strings on our arms (or something like that). Jack actually only has one left. We took the rest off.
And we'll miss Tat and his wife Noy, who, besides being funny and interesting and beautiful, has the uncanny ability to make Jack fall asleep almost immediately when she holds him.
And we'll miss John, who will be marrying his fiancee Katrina in December at her parents' home in Kenya. We're hoping to be there for it.
And, of course, we'll miss many other people and things in Laos. All the goodbyes started to make it feel real. Driving home from the office tonight it finally really hit me. Sunday nights the streets are pretty empty, so rather than thinking evil thoughts about all the people driving the wrong way or otherwise doing things that eventually will get them in a bad accident, I started thinking about what a wonderful two years we've had, and about the nature of a foreign service career. At the beginning, at least, your schedule is pretty rigid. Two years and out, regardless of whether we thought staying another year might be fun.
Tomorrow is a last lunch with my consular staff. Tuesday probably a last bowl of the most delicious mee muu (noodle soup with pork) at a local noodle shop. Tuesday night we'll go to the Sunset Bar for one last beer, Sticky Fingers for one last...beer, I guess, and L'Opera for one last italian dinner. It was the location of our first meal in Laos, so it is only fitting that it be our last as well.
I guess now is the time for regrets. I'm sure we will have many conversations about what we wish we had done different. But tallying up our two years here, we've been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. In Laos I've been to 10 provinces and missed five. We've made some good friends and had some great times.
And we are heading home with one very nice souvenir.
It started out a very civil affair.
Jack received another hat (his first from Vone is packed away to Kiev) and was a very well-behaved, hat-wearing boy. Plenty of good luck and good wishes to him, although we took off most of the strings before he went to bed last night. We were told that babies don't need to keep the strings on 3 days for the luck to continue. Rather, you take them off and touch them 3 times to the baby's head and the effect is the same. Sadly, adults don't have the same out.
Somehow, the night devolved into schoolboy contests, led primarily by Tim and John. The things you stack chairs on became vehicles for races down our driveway. I'm happy to report no serious injuries.
Then it devolved further.
More later, once the fog clears from my head. For now, we are headed over to the embassy field for our last sunday morning kids gathering.
He swims and poops in kiddie pools...
A few weeks ago was Chinese New Year. Our neighbors went the extra mile and had a whole team of people come over for an intimate celebration and invited Katherine and Jack along for the fun.
Monday afternoon we finished about 3:45 or so. We decided to go for a boat ride and walked over to the boat landing. Arriving at about 4:02, we saw the door closed and a sign saying CLOSED AT 4:00.
We made it to Muang Ngoi (not surprising given the incentive) and what do you know? They have concrete steps now (in Nong Khiaw too, by the way). Very posh. Last time here we had to scramble up the dirt riverbank. These small girls, I'm sure, appreciate the stairs. They were doubled over struggling to carry probably twice their weight. Very strong, their father said as he passed by me with double the load.
When we got back we had another drink on the west side of the bridge before returning to our guesthouse on the east side (very comfortable Riverside Bungalows for $20. Much nicer than the $2 place my dad and I stayed at before.). Two German women came in to grab chairs. They were waiting for the night bus to Houaphan Province to the east. It seems the bus is scheduled to arrive in Nong Khiaw sometime between 8:00 pm and 12:00 am and doesn't stop unless flagged down, so they camped out on the road to wait.
We bought a beer for them, wished them luck and headed over the bridge for dinner.
Nam Bak was the site of some pretty big battles during the war. It is at a T-junction of national highway 13 (north to south) and a highway that runs to the Vietnam border near Dien Bien Phu.
Lots of UXO is deemed safe enough to move to a special detonation site. It allows them to destroy the UXO without danger to surrounding houses, etc. We visited the site where they had collected a bunch of different land ordnance for destruction. Bombies are generally deemed too unstable and thus are destroyed where they are found.
They place them in the site, set a c-4 charge, clear the area and BANG! They are gone. A few of us stayed near (but a safe distance) to blow the cache while others went to a nearby hill to watch. I didn't get to see it, but certainly heard it as we were quite close (but again, safe in a cave around the backside of a small karst). Walking back, we found hot, sharp shrapnel between us and the site.
We were led by the UXO Lao National Program Director, the LP Provincial Director, Deputy Director, and others, as well as some international Technical Assistants, including our friend John Dingley, third from right.
Here's a bit of what we did just outside Nong Khiaw (where I was with Luther and we were with Ari and Jennine back in the fall of 2005).
The team leader showing us around. The Nam Ou is just behind him, and the town of Nong Khiaw at the left of the big karst.
2 of 4 bombies (cluster bomb units) found on the site go away.
And the other 2 here. You can still see the smoke from the first two. Note the proximity to a school. The kids were all playing in the schoolyard until just before the detonations, at which point UXO Lao team members went down and ushered them inside. They also asked the soldiers playing Patonque next door to go inside as well. Loudspeaker announcements announced to all in the area that a detonation was coming. Then the explosions, four in succession. The team goes to check that all four bombies were destroyed, then after they announced all clear and all the kids came back out to play.
I apologize to future Jack for this. Katherine thinks it is great and we must share. Jack in the pool with Mali surrounded by Lao women and Ghot.
Phil turns 35 today! He's off celebrating at a UXO meeting and a working lunch (on a Saturday, mind you) while Jack and I are at home playing. We're off to get the car washed!
Not much going on.
12 days to go..still so very sad, but exciting.