Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Things I Learned This "Cool" Season

I live in a tropical climate, so instead of summer, fall, winter, and spring, we have hot season, rainy season, and cool (aka not-quite-so-hot) season. Here are a few things I learned this cool season:

My daughters love to hear stories. When they get cranky or start fighting in the backseat of the car (which, these days, seems to be almost every time we drive) the moment they hear "Once upon a time..." they listen up and all fighting/whining stops. It's magical.

Poetry doesn't have to be fancy. One of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time published a book of poetry. So much of it is simple and lovely and understandable on the first read. He inspired me to write this.

There is a car called the S-Cargo and it looks like a snail. (get it? S-Cargo = escargot) It probably looks out of place everywhere, but it looked really out of place when I saw it driving the streets of Bangkok last month.


If you order something off Lazada (the of Thailand) that costs $2.50 or more, you get free shipping. That's just 7% of Amazon's minimum order amount for free shipping. Someday when we live in the US again, I'm going to have a heart attack from sticker shock.

My two year old is way girlier than me. Most days, she will not leave the house without putting on, at minimum, a polka-dot hat. Many days, she puts on the whole sha-bang pictured below. I love it!

Ear infections hurt like the dickens. And they can make you temporarily deaf. Learned this one from personal experience.

I can enjoy a Thai drama without subtitles. I don't catch anywhere near every word, but I can follow the plot. Learning a foreign language is hard, and Thai is especially hard, so I celebrate every victory, including this one!

There is a resort a few hours drive from here that's designed to look like the Shire. And you get to stay in a hobbit hole. Sleeping in a hobbit hole in the Shire is now on my bucket list.

You can get strawberries in Thailand! And right now it's strawberry season! And they're delicious and cheap! I am obsessed with the tropical fruit found here, but it sure is nice to bite into a good old strawberry.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Grace - Four Years Old

Our little Gracie is about to turn four. When I think back on this past year, three words come to mind to describe her. She is organized, creative, and brave.

Watching the clouds roll into the mountains in Northern Thailand.
Grace is organized. She loves order, structure, and logic. This is the quirkiest and funniest part of her personality.

One day I asked her little sister what her favorite color was. She answered "Pink." Then, I asked Grace. She responded, "Red. And my favorite color tomorrow will be orange. And after that, yellow." And so she continued through all the colors in rainbow order.

Grace enjoys creating countdowns for big events. Several weeks before her 4th birthday, Grace told us she wanted to create her birthday countdown 11 days before her birthday. Every day or two, she would check in to ask how many days until her birthday.

One day, I told her that there were 14 days left until her birthday. The next day in the bath after not mentioning it all day, she told me out of the blue, "Mommy, there are 13 days until my birthday. Tomorrow there will be 12 and then the next day, there'll be 11, and then we'll make a countdown!" Lover of order, structure, numbers, and logic to the core.

Grace has also been working hard to figure out how reading works. She knows the sounds of English and Thai letters and she has started to sound out English words. I remember one day after her bath, she asked me what was written on the toilet. "Mogen," I said. She practiced reading it everyday. Then, one day, she read it backwards accurately, "Negom" and laughed. That's when I knew she had figured out how reading works.

Grace is creative and imaginative. Grace loves to talk. She always has ideas, stories, memories, and questions brimming out of her. But, if we give her art supplies, she stops talking (!) and gets lost in her own little world of imagination and creativity. She draws pictures of gardens, the beach, rainbows, and clouds. When she's finished, she sometimes gives elaborate explanations of everything going on in her art.

Grace also loves music and dancing. She particularly enjoys learning Thai kids' songs, even more than English songs, and she loves having dance parties after dark with the lights off, the music loud, and her light up rings flashing.

Grace is brave. I've never felt more proud of Grace than this past year as I've watched her go from being a toddler living in America to a preschooler growing up in Thailand. It's been a hard transition, causing nightmares and category five tantrums. Watching her persevere through all the difficulties and learn to enjoy life here makes us so proud.

Because of her bravery, she's gone from knowing just a few Thai words to being able to understand everything her teachers tell her and beginning to speak a little bit. This past year, she also learned how to ride a bike with training wheels, she went down a water slide all by herself, she rode a pony, and she fed an elephant and a giraffe at the zoo. She is naturally very cautious, so all of these new things were scary to her, but she decided to be brave and ended up enjoying them all.

Grace, Mommy and Daddy could not have thought you up. We love everything about you from your passion for numbers and structure to your love of music and art. We think you're an amazing kid!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Why I Still Forget the Thai Months of the Year After 11 Months of Study

I was hanging out at the preschool playground after school with my little girls when another mom asked me how old daughter #2 was. 

"She's two years old," I answered in Thai.

Little preschool buddies playing after school together.
"What month was she born?"


I struggled to remember how to say the word "September." I had learned the months of the year in Thai nine months earlier, had reviewed them multiple times, and yet still could not remember them well.

Since I couldn't recall the word, I responded, "The ninth month. What is the ninth month called?" 

"กันยายน" she said. 

Yes, of course. How could I forget. I wanted to roll my eyes and let out a grunt of exasperation, but refrained since the poor woman would probably think it was directed at her.

I felt so frustrated. Why does it take months for the Thai months of the year to stick in my brain? Didn't it take me about one week to learn the months of the year in Spanish in 8th grade?

I started comparing the months in Thai to the other three languages I've learned -- English (native language), Portuguese (my other native language: born in Portugal, lived there until I was six, I've forgotten almost all of it), and Spanish (studied it 8th-12th grade). I then had my "Aha!" moment. Follow along.

Months of the year in: English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai
. (Thai has five tones, so each syllable below has either a low tone, middle tone, high tone, falling tone, or rising tone. It's a bit like singing. Sort of.)
  • January, janeiro, enero, มกราคม (mo-ga-raa-kom)
  • February, fevereiro, febrero, กุมภาพันธ์ (gum-paa-pan)
  • March, março, marzo, มีนาคม (mii-naa-kom)
  • April, abril, abril, เมษายน (meh-saa-yon)
  • May, maio, mayo, พฤษภาคม (prut-sa-paa-kom) the "u" in "prut" is a vowel sound that doesn't exist in English.
  • June, junho, junio, มิถุนายน (mi-tu-naa-yon)
  • July, julho, julio, กรกฎาคม (ga-ra-ga-daa-kom)
  • August, agosto, agosto, สิงหาคม (sing-haa-kom)
  • September, setembro, septiembre, กันยายน (gan-yaa-yon)
  • October, outubro, octubre, ตุลาคม (tu-laa-kom)
  • November, novembro, noviembre, พฤศจิกายน (prut-sa-ji-gaa-yon)
  • December, dezembro, diciembre, ธันวาคม (tan-waa-kom)
Thai is so different from English, right?! I find that new words and new grammar structures just don't stick as readily in my brain because it's all so different from the other languages I've learned.

I'm not the only one who has noticed this difference. The U.S. government has ranked which languages are the most difficult for native English speakers to learn. On a scale of 1-5, Portuguese and Spanish are ranked a 1 because they are closely related to English. Thai is rated a 4+. Only Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Arabic are ranked as more difficult than Thai. Yikes.

As I've slowly come to realize more and more how difficult Thai is, I've taken more and more of a patient, marathon mentality approach to language learning. Every day and every week, I make sure to put in my hours of reviewing, using, and learning Thai. I trust that after a few years, it will all add up and I will be (hopefully!) speaking well.

In less than three weeks, we will pass our one year anniversary of living in Thailand. Perhaps my goal should be to have the months of the year down solid by then.

** Interesting tidbit: Did you notice that months with 31 days end in "kom," months with 30 days end in "yon," and all the months... err... February ends in "pan"?

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