Archive for the ‘bananas’ Category

Hot Child in the City

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

After being abroad for five months I returned home with my wander lust quelled and my bank account severely diminished. I had known since I signed up to go to Australia that I wouldn’t return home until July, so I wasn’t even going to bother trying to find employment for the month and a half I was going to be home. The week I returned home I did nothing but eat and sleep at very odd hours while trying to get my life back in order. I scheduled some doctors appointments and made plans with friends to hang out, but generally I was quite lazy. I got home on the 20th of July and I did almost nothing that entire weekend following. Monday, July 25th was my best friend Jaime’s birthday. She loves cupcakes more than any other sugary treat, so I grabbed Julie and we headed in DC midday to procure some of the famous Georgetown cupcakes for Jaime’s 21st birthday celebration. Mom knew we were going into the city that day so she asked if we could pick her up on our way out, and of course we agreed.

As Julie and I were driving into the city Mom called us and told us that a woman in her office was in a panic because her nanny had just quit on her, and she had come to her asking if she knew anyone who could watch her 18 month old son for the remainder of the summer. She had mentioned that Julie and I both babysat and now she wanted to meet us. This worked out perfectly since we were already in DC, so after we had gotten the cupcakes we headed over to Mom’s office to meet this woman. What she was offering was a 9-5 job working at her home in NW DC watching her son through the last week of August. Julie wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I was in need of some cash flow, so we both left her our contact information.

She called me the next day offering me the job, which I accepted. I had told her up front that I already had plans to visit Justin during the first week of August, but she had managed to find temporary help for that week, so I was hired! When I got back from Missourri on the 7th of August I went over to her house to meet Ryan, who I would be taking care of, and get acquainted with her house. Monday I showed up for my first day of work.

I have to say that aside from the money making aspect of this job I wasn’t thrilled about this. I have always preferred to watch children that are of an age where I can hold a real conversation with them. I was at a loss as to how I was going to entertain this child from 9-5 every day for a month.

To more adaquetely summarize this, a passage from one of my favorite websites, cracked.com on children

“Based exclusively on what I’ve seen in public and my own spectacular imagination, I’ve gathered that having a child is the end of personal existence. Every selfish indulgence, every private ambition and every lazy afternoon of recreational sex is pinned down by biological imperative and strangled to death with an umbilical cord. Whatever part of the body Sense of Self used to inhabit is suddenly filled with only an intense urge to raise and protect an ill-designed hunk of flesh incapable of lifting its own spongy head. And even when it’s old enough to walk or speak, there is still an 18-year investment of ensuring its hair is combed, its closet isn’t filled with evil and that it learns to swim before falling in the family pool. Frankly, it sounds awful.”

To compound this, the family didn’t have a television. Great. So I was going to spend my days changing diapers and spoon feeding a toddler who couldn’t yet walk or talk. I wasn’t too elated at the idea of this, but I figured at the very least it would be a low stress well paying job, and hey, worst case scenario it was only for a month.

 

Meet Ryan!

 

My first day with Ryan was delightful. I couldn’t have been more wrong about hanging out with him. He was the happiest, most complacent and easy to please child I have ever worked with, and the hours we spent laughing and playing flew by. I would come over in the morning and eat breakfast with him and then we would take naps together in the afternoon. In between I read books to him, we took walks around the neighborhood and to local playgrounds. I learned that Ryan loves music, so I would bring my ipod or computer and have songs going in the background all day, and sometimes dance for him which made him giggle endlessly.

Me and Ryan

He wasn’t quite walking yet, but he was on the verge, so I would help him stroll around the house using his little baby walker and sometimes pick him up by his hands and twirl him around the room before plopping him down on the couch. The only danger in this behavior was that once I had done it once he wanted it again and again and again. His favorite food was bananas so we would often split a banana for a snack in the afternoon. Once the heat finally broke I would take him out back to play in an inflatable baby pool.

 

squinty eyes

 

 

 

 

 

Naptime, always a favorite of mine

Sometimes nap time starts without me

 

The latest in tabletop aviation: the airplane fork

The first few days I was there he put up a bit of a stink when his mom would leave in the morning, but by my second or third week he wouldn’t even notice because he was excited that I was there. Whenever we would go out on walks, women would tell me what a beautiful son I had, and even though it seemed odd to me that they thought I looked like I had birthed this 18 month old baby, I just went with it. Oddly enough, when men passed us by they always picked up on the fact that I was not his mother, instead saying things like “I bet hanging with him is a nice summer job.” I could never tell if the women were just trying not to be wrong in assuming that he was mine, or if the men were really more perceptive in these situations.

I have never become very attached to the kids I have babysat. Even when I was a summer camp counselor I never felt any special connection to the kids that I worked with, so it felt odd that I grew so attached to Ryan. I was genuinely sad to hand him over to his parents at the end of every day, and now as I write this, I think of his smile and his laugh and feel a twinge in my heart (wow that sounded less sappy in my head). He was such a happy and delightful little boy, and so close to walking and talking that it was exciting to watch him almost say words and stand up on his own every day.

 

*tickles*

 

o hai!

I can say without a doubt that watching Ryan changed my perspective on babies. Before watching him I thought babies were cute, sure, but I had always seen them as these eternally loud, smelly and needy little beings that operated on pure id, constantly wanting things but unable to express it so they would just cry. Watching parents make stupid faces and spouting all their “goo goo ga ga” baby talk dribble at their children made me feel embarrassed for them. But in playing with Ryan I got to really enjoy myself. I am still not a fan of baby talk but we had a blast together, and I became the peek-a-boo master. He seldom cried, instead he would just screech really loud to get my attention, but in getting to know him it became very easy to figure out what he wanted when he did that.

Whenever Justin would ask me about him I would say ” O me and my new boyfriend are very happy together, he is a far better cuddlier than you. He kissed me today too, be jealous.”

kisses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would come home every day and enthusiastically tell my mom how much fun I had with Ryan. One day she said to me, “I’m pretty sure you working with Ryan is the reason I am going to end up getting grandkids.” She might be right. If I could have two babies just like Ryan I would be so down for parenthood.

My new boyfriend

I am very jealous of the Au Pair Ryan will soon be working with him full time, but I did leave my phone number with his parents so hopefully one day I can babysit for an evening. I was very tempted to forgo my last semester of school and just work with Ryan instead. If only if only.

 

 

Bula Fiji!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Waking up at 4:45 am to check out of our hotel by 5 was not my idea of a good time, but knowing that we would be in Fiji by the end of the day did make the whole process a bit easier. We caught the shuttle to the airport from our hotel at the butt crack of dawn and after one last Qantas domestic flight to Brisbane and an international Air Pacific transfer we were in Fiji. Even though we had left Australia at an ungodly hour, by the time we arrived in Fiji we had gone forward in time about three hours and lost a whole day to being in an airport so the sun was setting when we arrived. In the airport we were greeted by a group of Fijians in bula shirts (just like a Hawaiian shirt, but they call them bula shirts) playing island music while we waited in the customs line. When we had gone through security in Brisbane the officer who helped us had told us that while in Fiji we would get sick of hearing two words: 1) Bula, which means hello, welcome, good evening, good afternoon, its basically the standard greeting, and 2) vinaka, which means thank you.

Once we had made it out of the terminal and through processing, we collected our bags, were given leis made of sea shells and loaded onto the shuttle bus that would take us to our hotel. We were told that the ride from the Airport would take about twenty five minutes but there was some big construction project going on and so it took us almost twice as long to get across the bridge that would put us on the island our hotel was on.

 

Front of our resort

Once at the hotel we checked in, showered, changed and headed out in search of somewhere to have dinner. The resort we were at had four different restaurants, and not knowing the difference between them we picked the first one we came across which just happened to be featuring an Indian buffet. All four of us got cocktails to go with dinner and after we had eaten we headed back to the room to sleep. When dad signed the bill for the meal I think he may have suffered a mini stroke. Currently 1$ USD is equal to about 1.79 fijian dollars, so the bill came out to be something like 300 fijian dollars, only Dad did not realize it was in Fijian until long after he had paid.

Where we ate dinner the first night

 

The next morning we were up early yet again to meet the bus that would take us two hours into one of the main islands so that we could then load into longboats and long boat up river where we would tour a fijian village and have lunch there. The boat ride took about an hour and a half, and along the way we stopped at a waterfall to do some swimming, but as it was still pretty early in the morning and the water was pretty cold, none of the Lapointes got in, but some of the other people in the tour group did. The water levels of the river were very low, and most often you could reach your hand over the side of the boat and touch the riverbed. We had a few problems getting over some of the shallower areas, but eventually we did arrive at the village.

Waterfall on the river we longboated down

just around the river bend!

Walking up to the village from the river

Once there we were greeted by a Fijian warrior and given a traditional lei to wear. We had to take our shoes off to be able to enter the main building, and once we did we were told we needed to pick a chief of our tribe, someone to represent us to the Fijians. We picked one of the fathers in our group, and once inside the building we had to sit in two rows, men in front and women behind.

A lei of welcome

Once we were seated, the village people filed into the room in their traditional garb and the welcome ceremony began. They sang songs, played music on drums and guitars, and performed a traditional war dance. The main event was the Kava ceremony. Kava is the main crop in Fiji, similiar to the potato or wheat it is the main staple in their diet. While Kava is a root, they also drink it by grinding it up into a powder and mixing it with cold water. The men who had danced the war dance brought out a large wooden bowl which was placed in the center of the room. They swept reeds through the bowl while chanting, and then brought a little half coconut shell of Kava to everyone in the room. On the way to the village we had been told by our guide that Kava tastes like dirty dishwater, but she is a native Fijian, and she told us this with a laugh, so I thought she was joking. As it turns out she was actually dead on. Kave does in fact taste like dirty dish water. Kava has a sedating effect and is primarily consumed to aid relaxation without disrupting mental clarity. Perhaps thats why everyone in Fiji is so laid back and relaxed. It’s either the kava or the fact that they live in paradise. Take your pick.

 

Traditional Fijian war dance

Once the formal part of the ceremony was over they brought the musical instruments back out and asked all of us to stand up and join them in a dance. Each one of the villagers came over and grabbed the hands of someone in the tour group and pulled them up to dance. We danced a traditional Fijian dance that bore a strong resemblance to the hokey pokey and formed a very long congo line around the room.

Dad dancing with a Fijian

 

Mom and Dad breaking it down

 

Julie makes some fijian friends

 

Julie and her new buddies

Once we had finished dancing the chief led us around the village and we got to see the school house and many of the villagers homes. We were also shown how high the waters had been during the big flood they had in 2009. The village had lost over half of its buildings during the storm and fortunately Australia had come to its aid and they had been able to rebuild most of what was lost since then. After about twenty minutes or so of walking around we headed back into the main meeting room for lunch. Lunch consisted of chicken sandwiches, tomato and lettuce, chocolate cake, Kava, fresh pineapple and bananas and fruit juice.

Walking around the village

lunch spread

 

After we had finished eating the villagers brought out blankets full of handmade craft items. Weavings, carvings, jewelry, beaded items, and paintings were all for sale. After making a few sales the packed up their wares and sang some more songs to send us off, and then we walked back down to the boats.

 

Saying and singing goodbye

 

Heading back out to the boats

Since we were going downriver on the way home we got out of the motorized longboats and for part of the journey we took bamboo rafts instead.

Bambaoo rafting downriver

Towards the end of our journey the sky started to cloud over and it began to drizzle. Luckily we made it back to where the busses were parked before any real rain started to pour. After a day out in the sun we were all exhausted so Julie and I slept during most of the ride back to our hotel. Once we got back we all but collapsed into bed, relieved that the next day for the first time in a long time we had nothing to do and could sleep in.

Boating into the storm

Elephants, Tigers, and Tut Tuts

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Waking up from a night spent shivering on the floor of wooden cabin in the mountains I wanted nothing more than a hot shower. My hair was greasy and gross, my face was oily, and my legs were bug bitten and mud streaked. All the twelve girls in our cabin woke up and compared horror stories of nighttime terrors and noises. Four of the girls in our room swore that some four legged creature had been walking around our cabin in the middle of the night, which was perfectly plausible because there were three pigs that had slept under our cabin and I’m sure a few of the dogs had joined them during the monsoon-esk rains that had fallen in the middle of the night. There was no electricity or running water in the village and so when the sun went down it got VERY dark. Only a few people had brought flashlights so we had to take turns using them, but when we were in the cabin without a flashlight on you literally could not see your hand in front of your face it was so dark. A couple girls had gotten up in the middle of the night to go find the tiny mud floored shack that passed as a bathroom in the village, but how the found it in the darkness is beyond me.

Once we had all woken up and scrubbed down as much as we could with baby wipes we went up for breakfast, which consisted of bread toasted on skewers over a fire, cereal and fresh fruit. After listening to the horror stories of the people from the other cabin who woke up with vomit everywhere because one of the boys had a little more rice moonshine than he could handle, we packed up our backpacks, loaded back into the caravan of red trucks and headed back down the mountain.

We were all hoping to be able to go back to the hotel and shower but instead we were taken to an elephant camp about halfway down the mountain to do an hour and a half long elephant ride through the mountains. While I wasn’t too keen on this idea because I had my heart set on a hot shower, but as soon as we got out of the trucks and saw these magnificent animals my mind was quickly changed.

We rode the elephants in pairs and my partner was Lindsay. Our elephant had a very long Thai name which I cannot for the life of me remember, but he was incredibly A.D.D. and hungry. He kept wandering off the trail to munch on leaves and fruit from trees. We were initially the fifth or sixth elephant in the lineup but by the time we got to the end of the trail we were one of the last groups to get back because our elephant had spent so much time wandering off and eating. At the start of the walk we were given a bunch of bananas and a bag of sugar cane and the elephants knew that their passengers were in possession of these items, so every ten or so minutes they would just stop walking and curl their trunk back and poke you until you handed it over. Very clever animals, elephants are. At one point during the walk we had to walk about 100 yards through a river, which was really frightening for us, but the elephant didn’t seemed to be bothered by it in the slightest.

Elephants and their passengers about to go out into the jungle

Courtney and Kaela elephant riding

Elephants behind us on the trail

Baby elephant pesters for a banana

Anneka and Danielle on their elephant

Lindsay and I off-roading on our elephant through a river

View of Lindsay's back and the side of the elephant's ear from atop his back. This is when we went off-roading through a river.

Elephant riding!

Baby elephants never stop being adorable

The beautiful mountain backdrop to our elephant ride

I bought a commemorative picture of my elephant ride for 100 baht (around $3.10 AUD) and since I don’t have a scanner here is a picture of that picture.

Me and Lindsay in my cool Elephant Camp frame. I'm on the right.

After we dismounted our elephant we all loaded back into the red trucks and headed back into the city to check into our hotel rooms and shower. That shower was by far one of the best showers I have ever had. This is not to say that the bathroom I had it in was anything special, or the shower head was fancy or I used special soaps of any kind, but more because I was so in need of one. The linens at the hotel were all white, and when I scrubbed my legs my washcloth came away a dingy brown color. A lovely mixture of sweat, dirt, bug spray and sunscreen all topped off with a nice natural mountain musk and essence of elephant dung. I feel like I must have lost two pounds of dirt off my body in that shower.

After everyone was back to smelling more like human beings we had lunch at the hotel buffet and then had the option of an outing to Tiger Kingdom or hanging out in the city and shopping and getting thai massages. Since we were going to do shopping at the night markets later that evening I opted to go to Tiger Kingdom.

Tiger Kindom is basically a zoo that specializes in tiger training and rehabilitation. Upon entering you decide which tiger enclosure you would like to go into. Your options are the smallest tigers (2-5 months old) for ten minutes, the medium sized tigers (6-9 months old) for 15 minutes, or the biggest tigers (10-20 months old) for fifteen minutes. It cost about $20 to see the youngest tigers but only about $12 to see any of the other sizes, so I opted to go with the medium sized cats. Approaching the cats is really intimidating, but a trainer goes in with you, and if you have ever seen any big cats during the daytime in a zoo they tend to look very sleepy and lazy. This is because they hunt at dusk being nocturnal animals, but during the day they just kinda lounge around just like any house cat. Since most of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom were born in captivity they are also very used to human interaction so they don’t react hardly at all when you touch them.

Petting a girl tiger named Lu Lu

Having a little cat nap

Lu Lu enjoying the belly rub

I'm surprised I didn't start sneezing.

Petting Lu Lu's twin sister La La

La La yawning

Tiger play time

Kitty Cat wrestling

Lu Lu and La La throwing down!

After leaving Tiger Kingdom we headed back to the hotel where we gathered with the people who had decided not to go to Tiger Kingdom and all loaded into a fleet of tut tuts. Tut tuts are tiny little open air taxis that seat two- three people. We were driven around the city for about twenty minutes driving around the original walls of the city and through most of the city centers and by the night markets which were just beginning to open. I was in a tut tut with two girls who lived in Coogee beach and our tut tut driver seemed to have a bad case of passive aggressive road rage. He was zipping in and out of lanes, cutting people off, stopping short, and speeding. Every time he came close to hitting something or someone the three of us clinched together or gasped and he looked back at us in the rear view mirror and smiled or laughed. I was fairly thrilled to have life and limbs still in tact when we came to a stop at the night markets. Once we exited the tut tut we had the rest of the evening to explore the night markets which featured a labyrinth of vendor stalls selling all sorts of t-shirts, crafts, handbags, elephant figurines, and all manner of scarves and silks. Prices here were all negotiable and Lindsay, Danielle, Anneka and I bartered our way into some awesome deals. I was able to get a very large north face backpack for 400 baht (about $15) when the original asking price was 850 baht (about $28). Anneka and I also treated ourselves to mango and sticky coconut rice from a vender for about 40 baht (about $3.30) and then the four of us split a banana rotee, which is a essentially a thai crepe with bananas in it, and its amazing.

Back of a tut tut

Night Markets in Chiang Mai

Next to a Buddhist shrine in the center of the night markets

Buddhist shrine outside our hotel, they are all over the place in the city and people leave food and drink in front of them so that they will have food and drink in the afterlife

Thailand really likes their elephants

Around eleven oclock we were all starting to drag because we had gotten up around six and had such a full day. Some of the other kids opted to go out and explore the nightlife but the four of us headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime.