Tag Archives: Travel

Our Thanksgiving in Thailand

And…we’re back!

It was the kind of trip that made a day feel like a week because it was so full, everything in it so new. It was the kind of trip that left even the kids with no desire to watch TV in the hotel room at the end of the day. We tried to read and all three of us dozed off within ten minutes.  At 8:00 PM. Of course, that was probably the jetlag, but still. A full trip, indeed.

The boys did great on the planes, all 21 hours’ worth (just to get there). The three of us met my dad in Bangkok. He had been staying in the northern part of Thailand for a week and flew down the day before we arrived. Nigel’s only issue on the plane was not wanting to sit next to any “strangers,” and when it was his turn to do so, he started to have an anxiety attack. This was somewhat unexpected – he is usually so social (yeah, I know – autism and social sounds like an odd co-description, but it happens) that I didn’t think it would be a problem for him, or else I would have prepared him better.  I just didn’t think of it at all. Seeing the writing on the wall as Nigel started to escalate there on the plane, I quickly switched seats with him, much to Aidan’s chagrin. “Don’t give in to him, Mom;” I’ve heard it before.  I tried to explain to Aidan that it was not a good time for a teachable moment.  I always feel that I lose respect in his eyes when I have to do things like that. It comes with the territory, unfortunately.

Lots of things come with the territory when you travel with someone who has special needs, of course. The two that affected us the most were food preferences and wandering. I took a risk embarking on an international trip with a child who wanders, but it was a calculated risk. Nigel has a history of wandering in public places, even fairly recently. I would never have attempted a trip like this in his younger years, or even two years ago. But I felt confident that at this point the risk was manageable. And he did wander once – at the Ayutthaya ruins, the highlight of the trip for him – but I quickly noticed and found him within five minutes. Of course, I was beating myself up the entire five minutes (which felt like twenty), but it was really just my PTSD kicking in. My rational mind knows that he can pretty much hold his own these days.

Enough of the negative stuff! We had clear skies the whole week, and all of our tours went off without a hitch. My dad treated me to no less than three (!) Thai massages, including one on the beach! Aidan’s stomach bothered him a little one night, but other than that, no one got sick. And other than a few mosquito bites, no one was injured. A successful trip on all counts! And without further ado, I give you…the pictures:

Aidan on the plane, right before I switched seats with Nigel.

Nigel on the balcony of our tenth-floor hotel room.

On a khlong boat on the Chao Phraya river, which flows through the middle of Bangkok and most of Thailand.

Along the river sits Buddhist temple Wat Arun, which means “Temple of the Dawn,” with its Khmer-style tower, approximately 80 feet high.

With Dad at the base of Wat Arun, photography by Aidan.

Guardians at Wat Arun

Climbing Wat Arun’s scary-steep stairs!

Aidan (in red shirt) at the bottom stair landing of Wat Arun.

 

Along one of the canals of the Chao Phraya river. Bangkok is nicknamed “Venice of the East.”

The famed Floating Market, where Aidan bought a cool wooden crossbow as a souvenir. Even with my suggestions, Nigel had great difficulty choosing a souvenir, saying, “Everything is so unfamiliar to me.” Finally he settled on a giant, one-inch-diameter pencil, stating that he could use it as a prop in his films. I guess it was the only thing that looked familiar to him! But still, his souvenir from Thailand is a pencil.

Dad purchased a coconut from a floating vendor who cut it right then and there and stuck in the straws for us (that’s the top of the coconut, not a drink umbrella). It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Even Nigel drank it!

Ah, coconut palms…they were everywhere, and I loved seeing them.

At the Bridge on the River Kwai (about an hour from Bangkok). Nigel did some filming here. Not only did I have to keep my eye on him, I also had to make sure he didn’t set his video camera down anywhere. Can you imagine the meltdown if he’d lost it?

At the Tiger Temple (two hours north of Bangkok).

Nigel with a “real Tigger”!

Some of the many buddhas in Thailand.

Walking around Wat Po, aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Nigel standing guard.

Aidan’s favorite (because of the top hat!)

Mealtimes were interesting! Nigel subsisted on fruit, rice, and the doughnuts served with the hotel’s continental breakfast. Aidan, the pickier eater, dove in and tried pad thai, among other things!

Chakri Mahaprasat Hall at the Grand Palace.

The boys at the Grand Palace.

At the beach at Pattaya – Nigel did not enjoy himself and remained in the beach chair the entire time – two whole hours! Both boys discovered on this trip that they were not fond of humidity.

Exhausted at the end of another full day.

At the ruins of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam. The boys said it was too hot to smile.

We declined taking the elephant tour around Ayutthaya. If it was too hot for us, we thought it would be too hot for them as well.

More ruins.

Aidan taking a breather.

 

Dad/Grandpa filming the ruins.

Thanksgiving dinner at our favorite restaurant in Bangkok – The Waterfront. Incredible food and ambiance – alfresco, and literally right over the river.

On our way home, we had an eleven-hour layover at LAX – perfect! Nigel and Aidan’s dad came and picked them up and spent the day with them, and one of my sisters came to get me. I freshened up at her apartment and then we went winetasting with our brother! It was such a treat to see both of them, and a wonderful end to the trip. Massages in Thailand and winetasting fresh off the plane – yep, that’s how we roll. I love my family!

Home Again

How can I even begin to tell you about my trip? I guess I can start by saying that what Meg from The Pages of Our Crazy Life commented about (me) “coming back a changed woman” turned out to be entirely true. And I knew that the trip would change me, but I had no idea in what ways and to what extent. It was the kind of experience that makes you question and/or appreciate so many things about your life. Questioning my priorities. Learning new truths. Appreciating what we have – and what we don’t have. Realizing that friendship transcends culture and language, and that the emotions we experience as autism parents are universal and run so deep, even on the other side of the world.

I came home three days ago to a 108-degree heat wave, a cat-scratched leather couch, and an ant infestation. I have three-foot-high weeds in my yard (that somehow grew in the heat), a major work deadline (that was already extended because of the trip), and about two hundred unread/unanswered emails (that I can’t even begin to tackle). I’ve missed blogging like crazy. And let me just say that this 108-degree heat wave actually feels good compared to the 87% humidity and heat in Nepal. I’m serious.

I think the only way I can write about this nearly month-long trip is to break it up into segments – because that’s exactly how it happened. I started off by celebrating the Fourth of July with the SoCal contingent of my extended family. Then I went with my brother and sister to visit our childhood homes, picked up my sons and took them to the Grand Canyon, spent a day on the beach with my dad, went winetasting with some relatives, and then flew to Nepal for two weeks, where I experienced so many amazing things. And all of it begs to be written about.

So, my friends, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll feature a particular part or topic of my trip in several different posts over the next couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be able to do it justice otherwise. I’ll also need to spread the posts out a bit because my boss was right about something (as she often is).  I dragged myself into work Tuesday morning, after approximately 22 hours of plane time. My boss gave me a hug and told me it’ll take a week for me to get over the jetlag. I waved it off and said, “Oh, I’ll be fine in three days.” Well, today is the third day, and all I can say is – What the hell do I know?!

Carved wooden doors at the Kathmandu Airport. More pics and stories to come!

The Adventure Begins

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Some of you may recall that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I would be taking Nigel and Aidan to the Grand Canyon when I go to visit them during their two-month stay at their dad’s house. Some of you may also recall that in April I mentioned that I would be going to Nepal this summer with Knowledge for People to do an autism educational volunteer program. And some of you may be as excited as I am when I tell you that I am doing both trips!

Friday morning I fly to LA, and I’ll spend the 4th with my extended family members who live there – Dad, brother and sister-in-law, and my sister. (In case you’re curious – I’m actually from LA. I moved up to Oregon to go to college and ended up staying. It’s that beautiful. Funny thing, Nigel and Aidan’s dad is also from LA, but we met and married in Oregon. Just a little Tanya Trivia for you.) Anywaaaayyy, then I am renting a car and picking up the boys to go to the Grand Canyon for a few days. This will be my fourth time there, and the first for them. I’m looking forward to sharing it with them, but really, I just can’t wait to see them and hug them. I’ve missed them so much already.

After I return Nigel and Aidan to their dad’s house, I will fly out of LAX for Nepal. I’ve spent the last week preparing two presentations I’ll be giving – one on sensory issues, and the other on my parenting experience. I’m the only parent of an autistic child on the team going to Nepal, and I feel so humbled to be speaking to these parents and teachers (through an interpreter). How can I talk about the challenges of raising a child with autism, when I have no idea how challenging their lives already are? Who am I to talk to them about challenges?! They are in a country with no resources for their child! But we are hoping to help with that, and I am honored to be a part of this.  I prepared outlines of my presentations and sent them to the director of Knowledge for People, and she will forward them to the founders of the newly-formed autism center in Kathmandu who, I hope, will have the outlines translated prior to our arrival. That way the parents will have something to refer to while the interpreter and I are speaking to them, and they’ll have some written material to take home with them.

And in case I sound all nonchalant as I’m mentioning that I’ll be traveling to Nepal and speaking to a group of people and having my words translated and all, don’t let the casual tone of my writing fool you. I can’t believe I’m doing this!!! I can’t believe, after months of planning and preparation and thinking can I really do this?, that the time has come and I am doing it!! Talk about taking a leap! I’m a little nervous, but fortunately my excitement seems to be overriding my butterflies.

So, my friends, the blog will be quiet for a while. We’re supposed to have internet access in one of the places we’re staying, but I am laptopless, so I’m not planning on posting during my absence. That just means I’ll have plenty to post about when I return! (And I’ll be swamped with work to catch up on, but we won’t talk about that now.) I’ll be back in Oregon on July 28, and I promise I’ll post as soon as my jetlag fog clears. Namaste!

 

*photo courtesy Wikipedia