September 14, 2022

The Ants Go Marching 100x100

My life revolves around bugs. The extent to which I think about, strategize against, and am tortured by bugs has increased 100 fold in a few short weeks.

We saw a tailless whip scorpion in our sink. Ugly. But whatever. I'm no wimp.

However, the mosquitos have our kids looking like intravenous drug users (combined with Lou's green-tinted hair from the pool, and she's really starting to look like a 90s club kid). They basically go to school in the jungle. And when we pull up to drop them off, entire extended families of mosquitos settle into our car for a roadtrip.

Manley killed a freaking TARANTULA in our house and maybe got bitten by it and so now has a sore paw and is wearing a cone of shame.

We are the foxes.

They are the hunters.

And the ants, OH MY GOD THE ANTS. There are tiny ants everywhere, and I don't mind them too much. But every night, the big fat ants invade our home and make us feel unwelcome. I bought a bunch of delicious bananas the other day. When we woke up the next morning, the ants had eaten all the peels off, like some freaking horror film killer mutants. Today, I reached into a bag of tortilla chips (totopos) that I had rubber banded and clipped tightly, and it was full of ants. As I write this, Tom is playing Ant Field Hockey—a game where he dribbles them with the broom all the way to the back door and then sling shots them out the door. I hate the ants so much. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.

This is what our pool looks like every night.

So yea....

had to

September 9, 2022

Our First Home in Mérida

When Tom and I were here in June, our main priority was finding a school for the kids. We didn't look for a house, so we tried to sort that out after we got back to Portland. We kept our home in Portland (which we own), and are renting it out. And we plan to rent in Mérida until we have a better idea of our long-term plans.

Back in Portland, we weren't super excited about committing to a long-term rental house in Mérida without seeing it in person, so we found a short-term rental in a neighborhood we were familiar with, and we moved in here when we arrived.

We'll only be here until late October. Then, we move into our long-term rental. Our current house is really special. It's an old Spanish colonial with the original pasta tiles and beautiful Mayan art throughout. We feel really happy here, even though it probably wouldn't suit us long-term. 

Here's our current house, Casa de la Artesania. (And yes, there's a whole lot of Catholicism up in this house, which we could definitely do without. But we're trying to view it more as art than as dogmatic religious artifacts.)

September 6, 2022

Back to Escuela

I don't really know how to structure these posts. When we were traveling full-time, it was easy to know what to say and when because it was chronological and temporary. But we live here now. So when do I post what?

As I say all the time, "No sé."

But if you know and love Tom and me, you are probably really here just to hear funny bathroom stories and see pictures of our kids. As a parent, I use my kids all the time to break the ice and make excuses, and this blog is no exception. So while I know lots of people want to hear why we moved and how we chose Mérida, those feel like loaded questions right now. So allow me to use my kids as a buffer and, instead, tell you about their new school.

Tom and I came down to Mérida in June 2022 to see if it might be a good place for us to move. A huge factor in that decision was schools. We really want to give our kids new and even challenging experiences. We want them to learn another language and to understand how big and interesting the world is. We want them to meet people from all over the world and to learn to be comfortable in discomfort. But we also don't want to traumatize them, and we both care a lot about education, but maybe not in the way you would expect. Of course, we want our kids to learn a lot...all the stuff...but more important to us is that they learn to value themselves as learners. And we think the way that happens is by being in an environment that celebrates curiosity and questions, that welcomes "failure" with love and intrigue, and that knows that every child—every person—is brilliant. Not in a "everybody gets a trophy" kind of way. More in a "what's your superpower" kind of way. 

Before we came to Mérida, we had visited another place where we were sure we would move. For many reasons, it wasn't right for us, and we'll tell you more about that another time. One of the reasons was the schools. They just weren't what we wanted for our kids, and so exploring schools in Mérida became a priority.

We visited three schools in June, and we liked all of them. We would have sent our kids to any of them and been confident in doing so. But when we found Kin Academy, we knew that we couldn't not send our kids there. It's in an old hacienda and is surrounded by jungle. (or forest? trees? what makes a jungle a jungle?) There's a massive green field, beautiful streams and walkways, chickens, ducks, and fruit trees growing around campus. It's small, project-based, and incredibly warm and loving. 

We arrived on a Wednesday in late afternoon. We were supposed to go to a parents-only meeting at the school on Thursday night, but that didn't happen because our house flooded (get ready for that story). But we did go to the meet-and-greet on Friday morning. And people—I almost cried. Now if you really know me, you know that's a big deal. I don't cry about anything related to me. I can't. I'm broken. I cry during even the most obscure Olympic medal ceremonies for people I've never heard of. I cry when I see someone in labor on TV because I'm so.proud.of.them. I cry when my friends' kids accomplish something huge. But something in my life that is deeply moving or sad or happy? Nary a tear. I can't do it. And yes, I'm in therapy. But I almost almost cried at this meet-and-greet. Louisa hasn't been entirely enthusiastic about this move, and she was very nervous, and so we all were nervous. Louisa's emotions are big and have a way of influencing all of us. We walked on campus, and we were welcomed in a way I don't think I've ever experienced. The teachers swooped in on our kids and engaged them meaningfully and without being pushy. Administrators we had met only once greeted us like old friends. Parents we were meeting for the first time, when learning we had only arrived in Mérida 36 hours earlier, very genuinely offered their support in all things—real estate, grocery shopping, play dates, mom dates, etc... And they really really meant it. I felt part of a community instantly, and it was clear the kids did, too. 

The kids left for their first day of school just a few days later, and I didn't have a single worry about it. Any parent knows how huge that is. 

"Just me" (I die.....)

The school is mostly families from other parts of Mexico who have moved to Mérida (because it's incredible). There are also some South American families and a few American families. They teach in English, but there's lots of Spanish conversationally and mixed into the lessons. There are several active WhatsApp groups for parents that makes me feel like "we're in this together" even though I have to copy and paste everything in to Google Translate, and I don't get all the jokes, and there are still fewer than three people in this whole city who would even notice if I disappeared. 

Back to the first day of school—just a few hours in to it, we got pictures of them making new friends already, which I don't think I can post because they have other people's kids in them. That's a thing right? Totally fine for me to exploit my own children to benefit my personal narrative, but not other people's kids? Even though no one even knows I've restarted this blog, so probably no one is reading it? TBD. 

A few highlights of the first 7 days of school:

  • Watching the kids walk in and out of school together. Louisa is always taking care of Frank, and it makes me think that (just maybe) we're doing something right.
  • After we pull in the driveway of the school, the kids hustle to unbuckle from their carseats so that they can call out the window to the ducks and chickens on the property. Somehow, they never tire of this. 
  • New friends! Louisa has a buddy named Belen. Belen's little brother, Tomas, is Frank's buddy in his class. And they both love our new friend Jude and his little brother Waylon. 
  • Louisa says "Teacher Edgar" and "Teacher Meli" with such a convincing Mexican accent that I question if she's actually my child.
  • Frank adores his teachers and refers to them with a great deal of reverence. 
  • Louisa discovered a love and a knack for ice skating at a mall here, and we found out one of the teachers at school (Jimena) is an ice skating instructor there, and Louisa is fan-girling a bit.
  • Frank's class has a stuffy named Porkybee that is the "class pet." Each weekend, someone gets to take Porkybee home to care for, and Frank got to do it the first week. He considered this a great honor. 
  • They both have yoga twice a week, drama once a week, and sports twice a week. 
  • Louisa and her friend found a tarantula in the bathroom at school, and Louisa was so excited (see above about questionaly genetics).

The vantage point for optimal duck and chicken viewing

Porkybee being loved to death

Nothing makes you feel like you really live somewhere than having your kids start school. I'm sure there will be challenges ahead, but for now, it all feels pretty good. 

September 5, 2022

We're at it Again

It's been awhile, hasn't it?

Over ten years ago, we started this blog to chronicle our 13 months of traveling in India, Southeast Asia, and Southern Africa. The internet wasn't what it is today, so we were always behind on getting our blog posts up because we rarely had reliable Wifi. And we never even ended up posting about our time in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. 

We also didn't chronicle the even bigger adventures—Louisa, born in 2016; and Frank, born in 2018. (And our pup, Manley, who we adopted in 2015.) After our trip, we settled back into San Francisco, changed our careers, got a dog, had a baby, moved to Portland, Oregon, bought a house, had another baby, renovated that house, changed jobs again, and weathered a pandemic. 

And right now? We're in Mérida, Mexico, where we moved only 12 days ago.

The preparation for this move was considerable. The emotions have been all over the place. The logistics were daunting. Our time here so far has been challenging at times—stories coming up about getting electrocuted, our house flooding, and Manley killing a tarantula in our house. But it's mostly been surprisingly wonderful—the kids' new school, an action-filled city, day trips to beautiful beaches, the beginnings of new friendships. And we want to remember all of it, so we fired up the old blog.

In the next few weeks, we hope to: update the blog's navigation and theme, give some background on our move, and share some updates about life so far. Maybe we'll even tell you about that time we drove a camper truck into a bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa, back in 2013. 

Until then, have some ice cream.

April 16, 2014

Fun to Say, Fun to Stay - Luang Prabang, Laos

You guys, it's been almost year since we were in Laos. A YEAR! And I'm just now telling you about it. How embarrassing. How ridiculous! But there's no time like the present! It's never too late! Yadda yadda yadda. (Click here for my favorite "yadda yadda yadda" moment.)

In any case - I'm telling you now. I'm writing it now. Whether you want to read it or not!

Remember how much we LOVED Vietnam? (Read our wrap-ups here and here.) I could have stayed there for a year. Or more. But, with flights to Australia less than two weeks away and with a desire to still see Laos, we knew we had to leave Vietnam (skipping several places we wanted to visit) so that we could squeeze in 10 days to explore another country. We decided to head to Luang Prabang (loosely pronounced Lahng Prah-bong) to start our time in Laos.
Luang Prabang Sneak Peek: They leave out busted coconuts to attract ants and then collect the ants to eat!

March 31, 2014

An Explanation...and 30 Days of Ass Kicking

Well hello there, friends! It's been a long time hasn't it? I know things kind of ended abruptly back in October after we posted about our time in Vietnam. Maybe you're wondering why that is? I'll give you a bit of insight on that (though that's not the purpose of this post).

We got back to SF in September. It was wonderful to be home. I loved having my own bed to sleep in (even though it's lumpy and needs replacing). I went into serious nesting mode. We were painting walls and buying settees and hanging shelves. Reconnecting with friends was amazing. And I was excited about taking the next steps in my career. (Tom was, too.) So that kept us busy for a month or so and, within days of being home, our big trip felt like it happened in a distant memory. And then the newness of being home wore off, and suddenly writing or talking about the trip wasn't fun anymore. It hurt. I was sad that it was over. Like, really, really sad. I didn't want to talk about the trains in India, diving in Thailand, my birthday in Vietnam, our family in Australia, or our safari in Africa (neither of which you have heard about yet). I wanted to DO all of those things...again. I lost my mojo for the blog and for the stories left to tell. So I didn't write. I moped. And I guess, in some ways, I still am. I don't think this is a bad thing (and certainly not shocking). I think it's good because here I am, home for 6 months, and it's still something I think about all the time. That's a pretty good kick in the ass towards understanding what's important in life, isn't it? Tom and I are still figuring out what that means for us. We think it means that we should move towards a life with more balance (something we've been talking about for years). We love travel. It's kind of the 3rd character in our relationship. We aren't "us" without it. So why have we spent so much of our time with it absent from our lives? That's an answer and a balance we're still working to find, but I know we'll get to where we need to be.

Swains in Hoi An, Vietnam

October 28, 2013

Vietnam: The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!"

Now it's time for the Vietnam version of 'The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!" But, like before, when we reviewed India, Burma, and Cambodia, we'll start with "The Bad," then move on to "The 'Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!'" and end with "The Good."