Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thailand-the wedding (and our hotels)

Alright, well you've heard all about my exciting (really?) travels to Thailand, my exciting (really!) treetop adventure in Thailand; now it's time to answer another burning question, namely:

Why are three grown women dressed like they're going to prom?

First, a little more information about our stay in Thailand. The first night we arrived (me and my husband, his two brothers and their wives), we landed in the Lido hotel (not to be confused with the Lido Beach Hotel), which was clean but sparse. When I say "sparse" I mean there was no plumbing connecting the sink to the drain in the floor, so when you'd brush your teeth, you'd spit in the sink, run the water to rinse out the basin, and then end up with toothpaste on your toes. On the other hand, it was only like $15/night. So, whatever. My toes are washable, and even if I do a poor job of rinsing them off after 20+ hours of traveling, they'll be minty-fresh in the morning, which is more than I can say for them most of the time. My BIL had made the reservations for us, and he wanted to find us clean accommodations that wouldn't break the bank since he didn't really know what our budgets were, and to that end, it worked out great. Not having to worry about finding a place to stay upon arrival was a God-send. I don't really have any more info than that for you-if you'd like to stay there, it's owned by the same guy who owns Tony's gym...other than that, I'd have to get in touch with my BIL for any additional information, but I'd be happy to do it if anyone wants it.

The next day, we all decided we would like to find some accommodations that were a little more luxurious, so went around the city, and found a cute little hotel called the Sabai Empress. I can't seem to find a website for it, but there is a site for their parent company Sabai Group. They need to update their info a little since it still says "Sabai Empress Hotel OPENING 20 March 2009." As part of their grand opening, they had a huge banner out front announcing 50% off their regular rates. This caught our attention. The picture above was taken in the hotel lobby, and here is a picture of the room we had.

I was very happy with our room, but the rooms on the other side of the hotel are right next to a nightclub, and, apparently, not quite sound-proof enough. The other downside was the location. It was right on one of the main streets of Pattaya, which is good convenience-wise, but it is just not a relaxing vacation vibe once you step outside the hotel. (Then again, if you are going to Patttaya for a relaxing vacation vibe, you are going to the wrong place, but that's a whole other story.) Again, it was only about $34/night, and it sure beats anything you can get here for $34/night! Also, we were only going to be there for 3 nights. If we had been planning on staying in Pattaya for any real length of time, we probably would have sought out something a little quieter.

My BIL's wedding was a two-day affair consisting of a party the night before the wedding and then the actual wedding-day ceremony...which began at 6AM! We wanted to dress appropriately for both occasions, and being American and all, my SILs and I weren't quite sure what that entailed. Our SIL-to-be was kind enough to take us dress shopping (even though she had about eleventy-billion things to do to prepare for the wedding already!) and the dresses above are what came out of it. Needless to say, we were a little bit surprised! We all had traditional Thai dress in mind (whatever that means), and our mental images didn't quite match the reality! Since the bride-to-be spoke very little English, and we didn't speak any Thai, we were afraid that there might have been some miscommunications, and that we were going to stick out like sore thumbs, but it all worked out OK. She had a fancy dress of her own, similar in color to the burgundy one above, and while most other guests were in considerably more casual clothes, there were a few other dresses in line with ours, and I think since we were family we were allowed/expected to be a bit more extravagant.

The party was held at the bride and groom's home, and there were all the standard entertainments-food, drink, karaoke, and dancing. We had a great time, and went home exhausted around midnight. The following morning we were up at 5AM to be at the house by 6:00. It was a Buddhist ceremony, which is something I'd never seen before, and it was quite the experience. Ten Buddhist monks arrived and positioned themselves around the living room, oldest to youngest, and proceeded to chant and bless and unite and whatever else they did for about 45 minutes. The entire ceremony was in Thai, so I have no idea what was said, but there was a solid 15-30 minutes (?) of chanting, and about half-way through, something struck a chord in me and I got all choked up for a couple minutes. Granted, I'm pretty easily brought to tears anyway (commercials, movies, songs on the radio, etc.) but this was different.

Monks eating food prepared by the family. My husband adjusted the settings on his camera to pick up only the saffron color of the monks' robes.

After the ceremony, the monks were fed. According to
Adventure Guide to Thailand, a monk's morning begins with a bath and prayers and then they venture out onto the streets in groups to look for food. They carry alms bowls with them, and people give them food. "In Western eyes this gathering of alms would be considered begging but not so in Buddhist Thailand. It is considered an honor to give, and one makes merit, an important part of Buddhism, by giving to the monks." (p.40)
The family had prepared several dishes for the monks, and all the wedding guests also participated in filling the monks' alms bowls with rice. This was a simple act, but rife with respect and humility.
Some of the dishes prepared by the family

Monks' bowls filled with rice by wedding guests

After the monks ate and left, the wedding guests walked up the street to a local bar where plates of offerings were prepared. Everyone grabbed a plate and we all walked down the street in pairs. It was like a Noah's ark of Buddhist offerings. I had bananas, so I walked with the other banana-carrier. Coconuts walked with coconuts, etc. There was someone leading a call-and-response that involved a lot of celebratory whooping. As I understand it, the idea is to proceed down the street making lots of noise in order to draw others out of their homes to come celebrate with you. I think everyone who was going to join us was already with us at the start, but it was still a neat tradition. Also, after doing some additional reading and staring really hard at the one not-very-telling picture we have of this part of the ceremony, I think this is also the groom's attempt to prove his worth and gain the family's blessing by providing gifts to the bride and her family.

Upon returning to the house, the offerings were presented to the bride's family, and apparently they found the groom worthy (whew!) and we moved on to the next stage which involved lots of string. First the bride and groom sat together and everyone took turns tying strings around each of their wrists. Then the bride's family did the same for all of the groom's family. As I understand it, this is a good luck blessing. You wear the strings until they fall off, and after that, I guess the good luck wears off? I'm not quite sure about that part. There really weren't very many explanations given to us as we were going through all of this. The groom was doing as many grooms do on their big day, just doing what he was told and being where he was told to be when he was told to be there. He wasn't really sure about all of the customs and traditions himself.

Me, receiving my good-luck string from one of the bride's family members. The pillow on my lap is a gift made by the bride and presented to us as a thank-you for attending the wedding. They used pillows similar to this one during the ceremony, which involved lengthy bits of kneeling on the hard floor. My red dress and the one to my right? Also results of our shopping trip with the bride.

This pretty much ended the ceremony. We ate and then we went back to our hotel to prepare for the long drive with the new bride and groom (about 4 hours) down to Trat, where we then took a ferry over to Ko Chang (Koh Chang). That's right, we all honey-mooned together! My BIL has found himself one tolerant woman, let me tell you! The good news is, if she wasn't scared off after spending the two weeks surrounding her wedding with all of us, it should be smooth sailing from here on out!

View Thailand in a larger map

Well, kids, thanks for sticking with me. I'll tell you about Ko Chang another day. Right now, I suspect we all need a break.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Be honest...

...this isn't the way the French do it, is it?

(Pictured above: string cheese, crackers, and red wine)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Subliminal attempts at birth control?

So, I was browsing the book section at the local Navy Exchange today, and as I was browsing the different categories, something struck me as odd.

In case you can't read these steamy titles, the NEX's Romance section includes such lusty titles as:

The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth
The Complete Book of Baby Names
Entertaining and Educating Babies and Toddlers

I'm so confused. I can't decide if this is just a matter of mis-shelving or if someone is trying to provide a public service here. This is the Navy Exchange after all, full of women whose husbands have been away at sea for months at a time. Perhaps they're just trying to reduce incidence of infidelity by removing material that might incite temptation or providing a gentle reminder to practice safe sex when your loved-one makes it safely back into port.

To be fair though, they do include some romantic titles like:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's up with my dreams last night?

During the course of one night I dreamed that

1. I was on my way to school, driving through the neighborhood that I grew up in with my dad and 5th-grade friend/little sister (you know how people morph in dreams). Well, actually, my dad was driving, and he was getting all frustrated because traffic was backed up so he decided to take a "short cut." You know how that always goes, right? Anyway, we drive across the street and start going through this neighborhood, then all of a sudden, we drive off this ice cliff into an icy sea. I tell my friend and my dad to let me know before they open their doors or windows so that I can get a breath of air. At least I'm thinking clearly. So, they tell me, they open up, we make it to the surface, blah, blah, blah everything's fine, and we end up attending a birthday party for someone who ends up being a baby elephant. Weird. Also, Awwwww, baby elephant!

Anak(large) and an unamed baby elephant.Image via Wikipedia

2. my car was stolen while I was working. I drove to a location, found out it was the wrong location, had to walk to the right location, and when I came back there was shattered glass all over the parking lot and my car was gone. Bummer.

3. I was driving with my little sister/new niece (again with the morphing and fluidity of roles) and the brakes wouldn't work on my car. I finally figured out I could put it in neutral and get the brakes to work, but there were some scary moments when we were driving in reverse (something I'm not very good at IRL) where I was afraid we were going to get slammed going through intersections because I couldn't stop at the stop signs. Luckily, we were out by where my grandparents live, in a semi-rural setting, so there wasn't much traffic. I eventually got things mostly under control, but every time we'd try to start again, something wasn't quite right. I knew I didn't want to keep driving the car the way it was, but we were supposed to be going on a long trip that night. I think we eventually called it a night and went inside to my grandparents' house.

In scenarios 1 and 3 I found myself in familiar settings but in scary situations. I was able to think clearly and rationally and not cause greater danger to myself than might otherwise have been the case, so that's sort of comforting...unless it's some kind of sign that I'm soon going to find myself in some scary situation involving my car. Then again, my dad just told me a story about a recent run-in he had with a state trooper, my husband was caught up in nasty traffic last night, and I've been watching that clip they keep playing about the firemen who pulled that kid out of the burning car. So, maybe that's just all been on my mind. Also, my work often sends me into areas where I'm not sure if my car will still be there when I come back out, so I'm sure that's all that was about...*crosses fingers, knocks on wood, etc*

Does your real-life drama play out in your dreams? Do you ever solve anything in your dreams? Are there people/places you dream about regularly even though they haven't been in your life for years? And, come on, admit it, who has the recurring naked-in-public dream?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flying through the trees in Thailand

Well, now that you all know about my exciting journey to Thailand, let me tell you about some of the things we did while we were in Thailand. As you may recall, the main focus of our visit was my brother-in-law's wedding, but we had about a week before and a week after during which to do other stuff. One of the week-before items ended up being the Flight of the GibbonTM zip-line adventure. There are two locations, Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Pattaya. We visited the Bangkok-Pattaya one which is in Chonburi, about halfway between Bangkok and Pattaya, and it was amazing. There are 26 platforms set up, and most of them involve zip-lines to get from one to the other, but there are a couple of bridges to walk across, and/or ropes to descend. The longest zip-line is over 300 meters, and, if I remember correctly, about 180 feet up. Having a hard time envisioning that? Picture about three football fields. Now imagine a zip line strung across those. Still having a hard time. Let me see if I can find something to help you out.

There we all are on one platform getting ready to come over to the next platform. See us? Waaaay over there? Don't worry, this was toward the end of the run. They don't throw you up into that stuff right away. You start with a light hike through the forest to the first station, and they start you off on low platforms and short zip-lines. Because at first everyone is hanging on like this:

But by about halfway through, they convince you that it's OK to hang on like this as they lower you down to the platform below:

Eventually you work your way up onto platforms overlooking the entire forest with views for miles and zip-line rides lasting 15-20 seconds. And the views weren't just of the trees. There were huge, colorful butterflies and flowers, and we heard lots of birds. We just missed seeing gibbons moving around in the trees on several occasions-we'd hear something big rustling about in the canopy and then see where something big had just moved through, but I was never quick enough to actually spot anything. Others in our party did though.

Here's a shot from an earlier station. We zipped down to the bottom platform, climbed up the spiral staircase, and then zipped from the upper platform to our next station, like I am demonstrating for you here. =) (I just realized that the amount of helmet-wearing I do on this blog seems to be out of proportion to the actual amount of helmet-wearing I do in real life. Just so you know, I don't run around in helmets, waiting for adventure to strike).

We had a great time doing this, and it is something I would highly recommend. This was a great break from the noise and pollution and general stress that is the city. The facility is very new, and the work that was put into building this is amazing. Take a look at that first picture again. Now think about stringing that cable. Or building that spiral staircase in the last picture. Impressive.

I felt totally safe the entire time; from the moment we stepped up to the first platform until we touched ground at the last, there was not a moment that we weren't latched into something secure, and our guides were great. We had two, one to send us off at each platform and one to catch us on the other end. The guide who was on the other end waiting to catch all of us also had all of our cameras around his neck and managed to get pictures of everyone at each station (there were 8 of us) as we were hurtling toward a safe and controlled manner.

From arrival on-site to departure was almost 5 hours, refreshments were provided for us before our adventure began, lunch was provided after, admission to the neighboring Khao Kheo Open Safari was included, AND we essentially had our own personal photographer with us for the duration of the trip. All of this for about $70/person-I think that's a pretty good deal!

I realize that this doesn't answer any of the pressing questions from my "Coming soon!" post, but that's only because I forgot to throw one of these pictures in there as a teaser! I'll get around to the rest, I promise!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-27: Best Movie Adaptations

Back in March, Weekly Geeks discussed the worst book-to-movie adaptations. This week, we're talking about the best.

The movie that immediately popped into my head is also one of my all-time favorite movies, Stand by Me, based on the novella The Body by Stephen King. The movie stayed pretty true to the book except for one scene in the book that wasn't in the movie, but, quite frankly, I thought that was a good decision. It wasn't central to the plot at all, and it wasn't anything that I cared for.

I loved this movie when it came out in 1986, and I still love it today. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell and Keifer Sutherland were all young and relatively unknown at the time, and I think they all did an amazing job. Richard Dreyfuss is perfect as the narrator of this story, and, of course, Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" (listen to a clip below) leads the soundtrack perfectly. Having Rob Reiner at the helm as director probably didn't hurt either. Here's a YouTube clip of the first few minutes of the movie. I wouldn't listen to it at work or in front of the kids, but that's just me. Of course, you never know how long these things will be available, so here's a link to the trailer at as well.

Another movie that I actually liked better than the book is The Hours. I thought the book, by Michael Cunningham, was OK, but the movie really got to me for some reason. It was one of those that you just want to sit and digest for a while after you watch it-no talking, no going out for dessert and coffee or shopping with friends afterward, but in a kind of depressing, I-think-I-just-want-to-sit-here-and-cry-cathartically-for-a-while kind of way. (I'm really selling it, aren't I?) Again, a stellar cast leads this film which was nominated for 9 Academy Awards (and numerous other awards). Nicole Kidman won for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep turned in wonderful performances as the other female leads as well. Ed Harris (love him!), John C. Reilly, and Jeff Daniels make their appearances as well. You can watch the trailer here, and as long as it's available you can watch this clip which, I think, is a pretty good explanation of why Nicole Kidman walked away with the Oscar.

Incidentally, our local theater just reopened. It's just a small, two-screen theater, but it closed down about a year-and-a-half ago due to financial constraints. A local couple bought the theater, renovated it and reopened it this weekend as the Laie Palms Cinemas, just in time for the release of the latest Harry Potter movie. We didn't make it out for the premier, but hopefully, they were able to draw a big crowd and they will be successful. This theater is about 10 minutes from our house, and is the only place that I know of that uses actual butter on their popcorn, not oily-flavored crap "butter flavoring." The next closest theater is about 30 minutes away, so I am looking forward to having a theater nearby again!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-July 2009

Boy, it doesn't seem like any time has passed at all since our last GBBD, but here we are again! To see what else is blooming around the world, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Here's what's blooming in my yard.

Leucophyllum frutescens, or Texas sage, has been a good plant for me. I've had it in a container for a couple years now, and it doesn't do much, but when it does it's very pretty. It's drought tolerant, which is good, seeing as how my pots experience frequent bouts of drought. I believe mine is the 'Green Cloud' variety. Mostly, it's just a nice foliage plant, but after a good rain pretty pink flowers just pop out all over the place.

Here's some bougainvillea, lining up nicely for a shot.

A camera shot over the rock wall reveals that my lantana are still doing well.

Last month, we saw Pam Tajima. Pam is starting to fade a little bit, so this month we'll be looking at...Pam's unnamed brother. Dang. He's got a tag, but there's nothing on it. We'll call him Bob.

I was having a hard time getting a clear picture of Bob. Seems every time I tried to take a picture I was getting jostled around by some mysterious force. Apparently Buster was not as interested in my picture taking as he was in letting me know that he had not yet had breakfast.

Hello. Can I help you?

Technically this isn't blooming, but I thought the red ti plant was pretty in the morning light.

Remember my mysterious purple plant that we watched unfold and grow? Well, now it's blooming too. Always something new with this one!

My golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea was a big hit with everyone last month, and since it is still blooming like crazy I thought I'd provide a close up shot.

Again, these aren't exactly "blooming" but they are popping up all over my lawn, so I thought I would include them too.

And, finally, my poor crape myrtles-they went from sticks that showed no sign of ever blooming again last month to past their prime this month, but they were quite pretty in between.

This month was kind of a challenge, but I hope you all enjoyed hanging out with me and Buster in the garden!

What I'm Reading Now-Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

This is another overdue review that I am now up-to-date on thanks to all the Weekly Geeks who asked me questions about it. I'm glad they did too because a lot of the questions that people asked are probably not the questions I would have thought to address otherwise.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh-I thought this book was fascinating. This was another airport find, and it was a good one. Many weekly geeks had similar questions. Eva from A Striped Armchair asked, "Was Gang Leader for a Day intellectual? Or did the author make lots of questionable assumptions/conclusions? (I wasn't a fan of Freakonomics, so if you've read that, do you think I'd enjoy this one?)" I didn't read Freakonomics, so I can't really compare the two, but I felt like the information that was being presented was pretty sound. Mostly it was the author's real-life experiences, but he also presented some background information about the area that he was researching to bring together a bigger picture of how a decision on the city level, to tear down a housing project for example, affected not only the residents of that community on an individual level but also the gang structure within that community and other neighboring communities as well.

Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness wanted to know if I thought "the author was able to keep his objectivity when writing about his experience? And how well did he balance storytelling with facts and figures to give some context about what his experience meant?" and Jennie at Biblio File wondered, "Is Gang Leader for a Day an overly academic book, or is it written for a more general audience?"

First of all, I don't think this is an overly academic book at all, and it is totally accessible to a general audience. If you're pushing this one aside because it sounds too much like school work, you're missing out. It's not all facts and figures and statistics at all, in fact, I think that was sort of the point of the book. He set out to find people to fill out surveys, to gather the data, to get the facts and figures; what he found out was that that information is useless if you don't understand why. Why are these people poor? Why don't they have jobs? Why don't they just move to a better neighborhood? Why do they put up with gang activity where they live? Why do women sell their bodies? Why don't they just apply for government aid?

...which brings me around to Kim's question. I don't know if the author was able to remain entirely objective; he did a good job of trying to stay neutral and objective, but he was writing largely about his experience hanging out IN A GANG. He was not a gang member; he was a nice boy from California who was in grad school, trying to gather some good information on poverty to impress his professors. Some subjectivity is going to creep in. He did try to assess things objectively, but in order to actually gain any valuable information, he had to get personally involved, not only with the gang leader, JT, but with the tenants of the building that JT's gang lived in, JT's family, the leader of the local Boys & Girls Club. As he found out, walking into the midst of a gang with a questionnaire full of questions like, How does it feel to be black and poor? wasn't really an effective way to gain useful information about people living in poverty. After the author spent an angsty night being held captive in a stairwell by the members of JT's gang, the Black Kings, JT's advice was:

"Go back to where you came from," he told me, "and be more careful when you walk around the city." Then, as I began gathering up my bag and clipboard, he talked to me about the proper way to study people. "You shouldn't go around asking them silly-ass questions," he said. "With people like us, you should hang out, get to know what they do, how they do it. No one is going to answer questions like that. You need to understand how young people live on the streets."

And that's what he did. For about 10 years, Sudhir hung out with JT, getting to know the members of the Black Kings, finding out why people would join a gang, put up with a gang selling drugs in their building, why police officers often showed up to mediate gang disputes rather than throwing as many gang members in jail as they could.

This isn't a book about how many youth are dropping out of high school and joining gangs each year and what percentage get arrested and how that percentage correlates to average yearly income, etc. If you've ever wondered why you can't just take a gang off the street and get them out of a neighborhood read this book. They are so insidiously woven into the neighborhoods that they are involved in, at least big organizations like the Black Kings were. The gangs sell drugs in the lobby of the apartment building, but in return they give money to the building president so that she can buy supplies for the children in the building. They cook crack in the vacant apartments, but they provide protection from abusive boyfriends to the women who live in the building. JT requires all of his gang members to receive a high school diploma or GED, and they are not allowed to use drugs. So, he keeps them in school and off drugs for the privilege of selling drugs, earning money, and rising up the ranks within the gang. Crime is kept to a minimum because if the cops come around, the drug business gets interrupted and people lose money, and people don't want to lose money...

which brings us around to what Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric wanted to know, "...what did you think of Gang Leader for a Day? Was it an honest look at life in a gang or was it more of a kitchy book - was the author just interested in sensationalism?" I thought that this was a pretty honest look at things. It wasn't overdone with gang shootings and people shooting up on drugs or anything like that. Those elements were present, but they weren't as prominent as you might think, and they were presented as a realistic part of the everyday life, not just as the next sensational thing the author witnessed. The title comes from a day when the author is giving JT a hard time about his role as gang leader. He essentially says, "How hard can it be? You go around, you talk to people, you make arrangements for things; I could do that," and JT gives him the reigns to be in charge for a day, to handle all the things that he has to handle every day, and Sudhir realizes that there's more to being a gang leader than just being a thug. You can watch a clip of the author talking a little more about this here.

I don't want to say that this book glamorizes gang life, but it does present the human side of it, makes you see that just because someone is in a gang doesn't mean they are a bad person. It explores the reality of living in poverty, living in a gang, surrounded by a gang, protected by a gang, threatened by a gang. Also, if you're someone who can't stomach hearing (or reading) the N-word, this book is not for you. It is used with abandon because that's how it is used on the street. It's not pretty but neither is real life sometimes.

Thanks to everyone who asked me questions about this book. I hope I answered all of them. If not, feel free to ask me more. It's been a couple months now since I read it, so I didn't have a lot of quotes or examples top-of-mind, but my overall impression was that this is a book I would definitely recommend.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Traveling to Thailand

**Edited 7/17 to add: I've listed this as my Weekly Geeks post for Weekly Geeks 2009-26:Where in the World Have You Been? I wanted to get another post up with more information about my actual trip, but so far, this is all I've managed to post, and it DOES fit in with this week's theme. :) If you want to hear more about my Thailand travels please come back during the week to check for updates.**

Wow, where to begin?? I didn't mean to mysteriously disappear, but I'm always weirded out about announcing, "Hey, world, I'm going to be out of the country, away from my house, for the next 10 days!" It's not like I've got my address posted here or anything, but you know. I also didn't mean to cause anyone anxiety about wishing me a good time. Nanny Goats in Panties wished me a fun time and then worried that maybe I was going in for heart surgery or something, which would have been awk-waaaaaard. But no worries! I did not go away for surgery (even though I did go to Thailand and I hear you can get all kinds of things done there for a lot cheaper than you can here), and I did have a good time in some unexpected ways.

The main reason for our trip was to attend my bother-in-law's wedding. Since we were going to be all the way in Thailand, we figured we might as well make a vacation of it too. Now, I love living in Hawaii, but travel to virtually anywhere is a bitch. Thailand involves an 8-hour plane ride to Tokyo, then the inevitable 4-hour layover, then another 6 hours from Tokyo to Bangkok. Upon arrival in Bangkok, we waited for my husband's two other brothers to arrive from the U.S. mainland (so, okay, granted, they had a lot more traveling to do than we did) then had a 2-hour drive to Pattaya where my brother-in-law who was getting married lives.

Ah, but this brings us to our first photo Q &A from the other day.

Q: Where can I get me a beer machine like that??

A: Well, I don't know if you can get yourself a beer machine like this, but you can go visit one in any of the airport lounges in Narita International Airport (NRT), assuming, of course, that you can get into the airport lounges. My husband travels enough that he can. There is a cooler of chilled glasses next to the machine, and as you can see, you put the glass on the machine, press a button, and it pours you a perfect glass of beer. This is one of the ways in which the 4-hour layover is made more tolerable in Japan. Ah, wouldn't you know it, someone has posted a YouTube video of the beer machine in action.

Another way to kill time while wandering around Narita is to check out the Nippon Origami Museum that is located in Terminal 1. They have examples of all kinds of origami figurines, but my favorite was the basset hound.

Also, the hippos were pretty cute.

But, really, they have all sorts of things to look at; there are entire dioramas showing things like village life and dinosaurs if I remember correctly, which I may not because, really, I just wanted a picture of the basset hound, and no matter which way you cut it, I was on at least 6 hours of travel by the time I reached Narita. Either way, the displays were way more impressive than any of the shoe-box and chicken bone dioramas I made as a kid. What? You never made dinosaurs out of chicken bones as a kid? Huh. I guess my elementary school was just cooler than yours. And probably in a much drier climate as well.

Um...anyway, our flight from Tokyo to Bangkok was fairly uneventful, except that I didn't realize it was going to be a 6-hour flight. For some reason, I had it in my head that it was like 2 or 3 hours, maaaybe 4. So, I was almost in tears when, at the 4-hour mark, I realized that we still had about 2 hours to go. Luckily, we at least had a pretty view for part of the flight. The sun was setting as we were heading to Bangkok, and this was the view from our window.

I've never really been above the clouds for sunset, and,I have to say, that's one of the coolest sunsets I've ever seen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Coming soon!

Where can I get me a beer machine like that??

Why are three grown women dressed like they're going to prom?

I'm riding an elephant!

Where was I when this storm moved in? Hint: Not inside!

And finally, horseback riding 101.