Our lives here are a mix of adventure and the banal. I suppose that is life everywhere, but here it feels more pronounced. Maybe that’s with the expectations of travel life thrown in – what one imagines life to be on the road vs. what actual life turns out to be. That said, I fully get that this post might bore you to tears if our quotidian routines remind you of your everyday life and it’s not the escape you hoped for! Feel free to skip this one or hop to the next post on adventures (coming soon)!
Part I – The Banal
We live in a pretty humble two-story house. For those of you Beth-Chris lifers, think of our Mumbai house, but bigger. It has 2.5 bedrooms on top (Obie has his own room, but it’s really an exaggerated closet). We have ACs in the bedrooms, but none on the ground floor. The floors are classically S/SE Asian style white marble, few decorations, curlicue bars and mosquito coverings on windows, and heavy teak furniture. We have a small washer, but line dry the clothes outside.
We live two blocks from the Ping river in a decidedly middle class Thai neighborhood. We're at the end of a small dead end street with a few townhouses, an auto repair shop, an apartment building, and a plot of banana palms. The streets are narrow with no sidewalks, and it's pretty sleepy except for the occasional motorscooter.
The shortcut that circumvents the incredibly busy, no-sidewalk street that our small street connects to winds through a wat (temple) and a school.
This sounds like a great short cut! And sometimes it is, with kids shyly waving to us...but not in the evening when the grounds are empty - save for a lone monk sweeping the floors, the soi (street) dogs in the midst of their dinner, and a family of five unknowingly traipsing through their territory. We have had more than one moderately scary moment of dogs surrounding and barking at us, only to realize that we had inadvertently positioned ourselves between the dogs and their half eaten bowls of rice. That said, we do love that we are surrounded by the local community, near a supermarket, and can walk to restaurants/shops in five minutes or so. And the kids have developed some incredible street smarts – how to watch for cars/motorbikes where there are no sidewalks, when/how to cross the road, and how to assert confidence around the stray dogs.
Our Weekday Routine
We have finally built up somewhat of a routine when we are not off on a big day/multi-day adventure, and it's been really important to incorporate the Chris-designed, kid-decorated elaborate calendar into our life here so that the boys can have a sense of normalcy.
Here's our weekday routine:
- 6:00-8:30: Me time (read, journal, meditate, write blog posts)
- 8:30: Wake the kids up (we found this was important, otherwise our days don’t get started until 11!)
- 8:30-9:30: Breakfast/clean up/get dressed
- 9:30 – 11ish: School work
- 11:30 ish - ?: Leave the house! This might include going to lunch, or finding a new cafe. I can’t even begin to describe café culture here – amazing coffee, smoothies, juices, etc. generally housed in a modern café with gorgeous sprawling backyards/jungles. Or then there are the toy cafes, littered with nostalgic video game/game memorabilia from the 80s/90s. Or we might end up sampling a local, often deserted pool to spend the day in (tourism has really not come back to Chiang Mai yet), feeding animals/riding water buffalo (?) at a café/farm, taking a hike, going to a wat, exploring a market, attending a local soccer game, etc. We might be out all day or we might come back for some iPad time. Sometimes our journey will take us into the night, ending up at a night market or cool restaurant. It all depends on how we feel.
So let’s start with the real. I do not enjoy being a ‘formal’ teacher to my kids. We are doing the bare minimum here, but I suppose it’s not the bare minimum since it still involves 1-1.5 hours of parental teaching a day. If you’re interested, here’s how we’ve finally settled into a school routine:
- Throughout the week ongoing: general expectation of everyone reading all week (for the littles who sometimes need some more challenging reading direction, we download specific chapter books for them to read weekly)
- Throughout the week ongoing: near-daily journal writing as a family
- Alternate days: math (Khan academy or workbook)
- Alternate days: writing - this varies from researching a place we are going to and writing about it, to Obie writing a book or Emmet writing a graphic novel, to Emmet reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and responding to essay questions about the text, to Asa writing stories inspired by Hindu myths. We try to allow the kids to tell us what they are interested in so they can be authors/designers of the task itself, but that doesn’t always work! Sometimes they translate this writing into blog posts!
- Obie specific: Obie is obviously at a different place in his learning and has different needs. In addition to the basic educational infrastructure we have created for the kids, he also takes a Thai course with me twice a week (so fun to be his learning peer! Also slightly demoralizing that his sprightly 12-year-old brain absorbs Thai language faster than me), has developed an interest in meditation so may do a course on that, and does a weekly Outschool class on analyzing text (various fiction pieces) and writing.
- Fridays: we need to report into our learning platform/coordinator (SelfDesign) to tell them what we have accomplished that week, so that generally takes some time, and is authored by the kids.
So that’s school. It can be a SLOG. Some days the kids are running with their own stuff and independent and happily learning. Other days, it’s like pulling teeth. This is particularly true when they have to absorb a new concept without their peers around them to help them remember that sometimes learning is slow and steady rather than lightning speed revelations. Then they get frustrated and generally take it out on us. As Chris tells me when I am wanting to pull my hair out, this is an investment in them. And the pain points are not daily and sometimes there are even moments of elation, as we watch their writing evolve or their creativity emerge in new ways.
We try to have the weekends feel different than the weekdays. This has proved important for everyone’s sanity. If we are not embarking on a big adventure, the kids can sleep in and Emmet (soccer) and Obie (drama) do outside classes so they can meet other kids and have a life outside of us. Obie is also dabbling in Muay Thai. While Asa wanted to do gymnastics, one of the features of this trip is that he seems just not developmentally ready to attend a class in Thailand. We tried gymnastics (his choice), but he refused to go. So, we have opted to give it a rest. As he said to us, ‘don’t pressure me.’ And instead of that being an ongoing argument, we have decided to let it go for now.
Food is incredibly affordable here and there is an enormous restaurant culture, so we generally eat out. We barely cook, which is weird, but we are rolling with it. That seems to be pretty common with Thais as well. The ubiquitous night markets full of food stalls are packed every evening! Our kids have always been somewhat open to foods (depending on the kid and their respective stages of development), but here's a learning: if you are fed up with your picky eater, just go live in another country. Our kids in just a month in Thailand have become incredibly adventurous and open eaters. They are now into spicy foods and generally eat and will try everything (with the exception of Obie and seafood – that is still a work in progress). They will now often opt for Thai food over Western food. We all love eating at night markets.
It’s pretty cool to watch that evolution! That said, only one of our kids would eat crickets (see the video for who!).
Whew, that was a lot - very impressive if you managed to stay with me! Stay tuned for the coming adventure post!