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Today begins our three week semester break! We started celebrating in style last night with a hi so (a cute Thai nickname for “high society) evening of drinks at the Banyan Tree’s Vertigo, dubbed the highest open-air bar in southeast Asia, and dinner at the Suan Lum night bazaar.

We arrived just after five, in time to see the cloudy gray skies over the city:

Gray Skies

Got to watch the beautiful sunset, while enjoying our drinks:

Sunset

Ben and Chrissy

Enjoyed seeing the evening lights slowly brighten:

Dusk

And eventually headed back down to the city for some tasty Thai food:

City Lights

Along with our lovely friends:

Celebrate

The perfect way to start a holiday break, if you ask me!

What are you doing this holiday season?

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As usual, it’s hard to believe the summer is over… You won’t hear me complaining, though, I know a good thing when I see one. Eight weeks off every year is a pretty sweet deal, that’s for sure. Even though it went by at lightening speed, we had a great summer (as we always do!).

Our first two weeks in Munich were fabulous. It’s hard to believe we’ve been away from the city for three years already. It felt like we were living there only yesterday as soon as we stepped out of the airport. So many things have changed, but thankfully, most of our old favorite spots are still just the same:

We had some spectacular schnitzel at Steinheil:

Steinheil Schnitzel

Enjoyed the lovely, long summer twilight in the city’s many parks:

Frauenkirche

Got to see the highly protected, secret, back courtyard of the Augustiner Keller on Landsbergerstr:

Augustiner Keller

And, of course spend tons of quality time with our fabulous friends we miss so much:

Neil and Sabine

Sabine and Neil (check out the guy in full Bayern wear in the seat behind us – just a regular Saturday in Munich).

Martine and Chris

Martine and Chris (who flew down from London to see us!)

Mithra and Frank

Mithra and Frank (our steadfast lunching companions)

Trish and Martin

Martin and Trish

Once we got back to the States, we spent two weeks relaxing with my family in Connecticut:

Spent a few good days at the pool:

Lisa, Kim and Jay

Reconnected with one side of my family that I haven’t seen for 15 years (a post is soon to come on that story):

The Cofino Family

Enjoyed some fantastic meals, and just enjoyed being home.

For the last part of our vacation, we headed out west to Eugene, Oregon for two weeks, where we spent some quality time with Alex’s family and got to:

Experience the Oregon Country Fair:

Crowds

Go whitewater rafting on the MacKenzie River:

On the raft

Taste some delicious Oregon wine at the Kings Estate Winery outside Eugene:

Hills

Enjoy the stunning Oregon coast:

Crash

And hang out with our old friends, Annaliese and Jeremy, that now live in Portland:

Reading with Ken Kesey

Aside from some airline related travel snags (Hello, domestic travel in the US sucks big time!) It was a pretty sweet trip, I must say. Even so, it feels great to be back home in Bangkok – especially being able to hop in a taxi from the airport and find ourselves home, downtown, in under 40 minutes!

So, now that we live downtown, and we’re going to be here for more than a month (which was about the amount of time we had in our new place before we left for the summer holidays), what should we do that’s off the usual tourist/expat path?

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As you might have guessed, one of the absolute best things about being a teacher is having the summers off. Now, we work mighty hard during the year, and the responsibilities and challenges of working with children (and their lovely parents) all year definitely lends itself to requiring an extended break at the end. So it’s not like this whole summer thing is just fluff. We seriously need it.

Oddly enough, every summer I have a little bit of trouble adjusting to not working. It takes me about three or four work days to realize that I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn or rush around like a madwoman “getting everything done” during my “free time.” Usually it takes until I’m on the plane back to the US for me to really realize that it’s vacation time.

This year is a little different though. For the first time since I’ve been a teacher (the first summer in eight years), Alex and I are actually going on our own vacation before we head home to the States! On Thursday we’re leaving for two weeks in Europe! We haven’t been back since we left Munich in 2005, so we’re both overly excited to visit our home away from home!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three whole years since we were in Europe – it still almost feels like we live there and we’re just on an extended vacation (I guess that just shows you how at home we felt there). Plus, so many of our friends still live in Munich so not only do we get to go back to our old home, but we get to see tons of wonderful friends while we’re there. Aren’t we lucky?

While we’re hanging out in Munich, we’re planning to spend a little bit of time in northern Italy, yet another one of our all time favorite regions of the world. Hopefully we’ll head down to the lakes region for a few days to visit with one of my oldest friends in the world, Susan, who was an exchange student from Milan during my senior year of high school, and her partner, Daniele. 

Basically my plans for the entire time we’re in Europe consist almost entirely of eating (during quality conversations with all my friends, of course). Creamy gelato, crispy schnitzel, salty prosciutto, chewy brezen, fresh mozzarella, real chocolate, almondy mandel-hoernchen, sweet strawberries, crunchy organic granola, oh the tasty treats that await me! My mouth is watering already! And it will all be so cheap, compared to how much that kind of food costs here in Bangkok!

After two weeks of gorging, anticipating that I can actually fit into my airplane seat, we’ll be on our way back to the States for just over a month making all our routine stops. A few weeks in Connecticut and New York with my family, a few weeks in Oregon with Alex’s family, then in a bizarre twist of planning, back to New York (so Alex can take a formal exam for his ESL teaching certification) for a few more days before we head home to Bangkok.

And, clearly, by the time we get back here, we’re going to be just as exhausted as we were before we left. Who planned this crazy adventure anyway?

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It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I’m sad to say that this blog has been quite neglected since I started my new position at ISB. I’ve been so busy, learning so much, that I haven’t had much time to reflect on my non-existent personal life.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been traveling. As soon as vacation starts, Alex and I are off on another adventure. Last month it was a fabulous two week tour of Thailand – from the southern state of Krabi to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya, to the northern city of Chiang Mai. We did all this lovely travelling with our two great friends from Munich, Sabine and Neil, who flew all the way here to experience the beauty of Thailand.

Sabine and Neil

We started our trip with a week at the beach, Krabi, where we had a surprising number of adventures:

On our very first day, we were enjoying a nice swim, when Sabine was stung by a sea urchin. She said the pain shot up her leg almost instantaneously. Thankfully, the hotel staff were incredibly responsive and carried her into the doctor’s office immediately (which, I must say was quite frightening to me – I’ve never seen anyone move so quickly in southeast Asia before!). It took her about 12 hours to recover – she was in a wheelchair for the whole evening. I can only imagine what might have happened had we not been staying at a hotel with a doctor!

That very same evening we were forced into one of my least favorite things about Thailand during the holidays. At all the major hotels (this one was a Sheraton) on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, they have these huge compulsory dinners – usually one dinner costs at least (and often more than) the price of the room. This time around we had a huge Christmas Eve buffet – which, in all honesty, was delicious. Unfortunately, whatever I ate was not quite fit for my stomach, so I spent the following 12 hours in the bathroom enjoying all the glories of food poisoning. So much so that I ended up at the doctor’s office as well. What a pleasure to spend my entire second day at the beach in the hotel room. Lovely.

After those first two days, things evened out a bit. We got to play with the hotel’s adorable baby elephant, RaRa, on the beach and in the water:

Rara by the Sea

she had such bristly hair on her back:

A Bristly Back

but she was still so cute:

Elephant's Eye View

We also spent some time exploring the various beaches and waters of Koh Phi Phi and around Krabi:

Swim

After Krabi, we flew back to Bangkok, spent some quality time at Jatujuk market, and visited the Grand Palace:

Guardian

There was so much to see – I can’t wait to go back the next time some friends come to town!

Next, we took a day tour of the old capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya:

Wrapped

Spotlight

Fly-by

After Ayutthaya, we headed up to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand:

Not only was the weather absolutely perfect – so cool and refreshing – but it was so relaxing and green! We enjoyed visiting the beautiful nearby temples:

Lantern

Melt

and ruins:

Ensconced

took Thai cooking classes:

Ingredients

where we saw the cutest kid ever while we were at the market! He loved having his picture taken and seeing the result on the camera. I actually managed to teach him how to take a picture, he was enjoying himself so much!

Little Cutie

and took a trip up the river to a fruit and herb farm:

Sunset

We also spent quite a bit of time shopping while we were in Chiang Mai. Everything is so much cheaper than Bangkok, and with the cool temperatures, it makes it such a pleasure to stroll around the markets. We ended up buying quite a lot of teak furniture, which I absolutely love (pictures soon). I can totally see how easy it would be to buy a whole house full of furniture here (hmmm…. a plan is forming).

One of my favorite things about the first long vacation in a new country is exploring everything we new eyes. We had such a great time traveling around Thailand with our friends. Their first visit made it feel like our first visit! Honestly, I feel so lucky to be living in such a beautiful country with so many wonderful people and places to see…

We will definitely be going back to Chiang Mai, and I can’t wait to spend more time on the beach! I just wish there was a little more time for vacationing 😉

How did you spend your holiday season?

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Normally I love my birthday. It’s that one special day a year that all about me (secretly, I believe every day of the year should be all about me, but that’s the day that I can proudly proclaim is “officially” all about me). However, this year was a little bit depressing…

Apparently, given the fact that I was born in 1977, I am now 30 years old. I’m not really sure where the time went, or how it could be physically possible that I’ve already lived 30 whole years, but I guess it’s true. I’m 30. Thirty. Yikes! I guess now it’s time to “grow up” and start “acting my age.” Considering, I still feel like I’m 21, that’s going to be harder than it sounds…

Anyway, thanks to my lovely new friends here in Bangkok, and my wonderful husband, I had a tasty birthday dinner at a surprisingly good Italian restaurant called Limoncello:

Birthday Friends

My favorite part was the delicious dessert tray, which didn’t take long to go from this:

Birthday Cakes

to this:

Tasty

And, I also liked the cute Thai pizza chef tossing the dough like a pro:

Flying Pizza Crust

I think he was secretly flattered at my documentation of his professional pizza tossing abilities.

By the time my birthday rolls around again, I want to do something even more exciting downtown – anyone have any recommendations?

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Night Swimming I always used to think the best thing about summer was swimming at night (and of course the fireflies).

But this weekend, at our annual family and friends BBQ and pool party, we topped it: night swimming in the rain! After a sunny and warm day, it started pouring just as day was turning to dusk (not exactly night swimming, but towards the end it was pretty dark. Close enough to night time for me). It was that perfect kind of rain with no thunder and lighting (an odd experience for me after two years of tropical storms in KL).

After the rainAs soon as the rain started coming down a bunch of us jumped in the pool, which, ironically, was much warmer than the air outside. The sound of the rain while underwater was amazing. Almost like rain on a tin roof, but different (same same but different for those of you that have lived in southeast Asia). Either way, I highly recommend it (as long as there is no lightning – don’t go telling people that I recommend swimming during a lighting storm. I bear no responsibility for your actions).

As we were swimming, a beautiful mist was rising from the pool and the ground which just made the whole experience that much more surreal. Of course I spent my “drying off” time snapping picture after picture – if it weren’t for the devilishly active mosquitoes I would have had a lot more to show for myself…

What’s your favorite summer activity?

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After two weeks on the west coast, Alex and I returned to Redding, Connecticut (where I grew up) this week. I’ll be spending the next three weeks in my childhood home with my parents and my sister. Since my parents are retired and my sister is also a teacher (finishing up her degree and living at home), we’re all home – every day, all day. As you can imagine, this can be a recipe for disaster, but so far things are working out well…

I am always amazed that every time I come home (even though it’s only once a year), it’s pretty much like I never left. Sure, things change a little every year, but for the most part, seeing friends and family feels like just yesterday. I love that feeling!

This summer has been especially lucky for us – we’ve been able to see so many of our friends (several of whom we haven’t seen for three or four years!). First, in San Francisco, I had dinner with one of my best friends from college, Heather:

Kim and Heather

Then, while in Oregon, we were able to visit our friends, Annaliese and Jeremy, at their new home in Portland:

Annaliese and Jeremy

Now, back in Connecticut, we have spent some quality time with our other best friends from college, Lisa and Jay:

Jay and Lisa

In addition to all this quality time with friends and family, my favorite pastime while in the US, is shopping. I am American, after all.

So far I’ve been on two trips to various factory outlets with two more planned for this week. I bought the best camera ever, plus a new iPod which was just delivered on Friday. Basically, I plan to spend the rest of my summer spending money. Handily, I am able to rationalize all of this spending by “saving myself money on future flights” because I have several credit cards that partner with various airlines. This summer we even flew from Eugene, OR to New York for free! While I realize that I probably could have gotten that flight for about US$500 for the two of us (instead of the thousands and thousands that I had to spend to earn those miles), it still feels pretty cool to fly for free. Plus, with all these trips to Asia I should be able to work myself up to some free flights faster…

What are you doing this summer?

 

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