Father’s Day Update

I have a few moments with Internet access, so I can give a much overdue update of things that have happened.  It was a quick weekend trip to Phitsanulok last weekend where it was just a chance to see Ben again and relax after the first week of class had finished.  Now Jet and I have just returned to Bangkok after spending this past extended weekend (Wednesday night – Saturday night) traveling to Phitsanulok to meet up with Jet’s Mom and Ben, then going on to Chiang Rai in the far north of Thailand (another 4-5 hours of driving).  We decided to take the trip a few weeks back as this would likely be the only free time we had (no class Friday for us due to the midterm exam being proctored by someone else) before the end of the semester, thus likely being the last time we could visit Jet’s uncle in his capacity as the president of Mae Fah Luang University – he retires in three months.  We had a great time in Chiang Rai as the weather was just fantastic – mid-upper 80’s under partly sunny skies and no rain.  This was my fourth visit to Chiang Rai, and just like every other visit there, we found some time during our stay there to make the short 30 minute drive north to the Thai-Burma border (Mae Sai) to do some shopping.  I took some video this time to show what it is like walking across the border, hopefully I can get it up on YouTube in the next few days.  I actually have about a dozen new videos to post, but I have had problems uploading them to YouTube.  I am not quite sure if I am being blocked from uploading videos as I do have fast Internet connection speed.  I was able to upload a few other videos to YouTube before, however, so I don’t really know what’s keeping those videos from being posted. 

The trip was just another great time, save for the fever that Ben came down with that was thankfully short-lived (24 hours).  Ben’s fever showed up almost right after we walked into Burma, so the time we spent shopping was a bit tense for me and cut shorter than we would have liked.  The only other snag from our trip was me getting back into Thailand.  I had gotten a 3-month visa to Thailand before arriving this year to cover my 2-month stay teaching.  I got the same 3-month visa last year for my 4-month stay teaching.  When my visa was expiring (with 1 month left to go in my stay), we traveled to Mae Sai last year for a “visa run”, or a trip across the border and back so that I could get another 30 days to stay in the country – the 30 days is the default given to US citizens.  I bring this all up because when the Thai immigration officer stamped my passport, he stamped it, granting me 15 days instead of 30.  This was an unexpected problem as I my flight returning to the US is in 22 days, to which a 30-day extension would not have been an issue.  The 3-month Thai visa that I got is a single-entry visa,meaning that once I crossed the border, it became invalid.  Jet and her Mom had no problem as they just went through the border crossing with their Thai national ID’s (a separate line).  Ben crossed with Jet as they didn’t bother to check him because he is a child.  Once Jet realized that something was up, she walked back over to me and started complaining to the immigration officer.  That conversation didn’t go anywhere as he threatened to reduce my 15-day extension to just 1-day.  We both walked away just happy to have the 15-days at that point.  After doing some investigation, Jet found out that last October, they changed the rule for those visa-renewals from “walk-ins” to the country from 30-days to 15-days.  When you fly into Thailand, it is still 30 days, however.  What this means now is that I need to find a way to get my visa extended a little longer before we return back to the US or else face a 500 baht ($14) per day fine for every day I spend after my visa is expired.  One option is to return to Mae Sai or another border town within 15-days of returning back to the US, but before my current 15-day visa expires.  I don’t think that we have the time to make such a trip in the next week or so.  Another option is to get it renewed here in Bangkok for about 1900 baht ($55), which we may just end up doing.  Jet has some connections here in Bangkok, so there may be other possibilities for getting my visa extended.  We’ll see how this progresses in the coming days.

Well, it is Father’s Day today, so why not end it with some updates about Ben.  It was such a joy spending time with him over the past few days that it was really hard leaving him last night, then again, when is it not hard to leave Ben.  Before we put Ben down to sleep and Jet and I caught a bus to Bangkok, I sat and played Lego’s and blocks with him for about an hour.  I put on a Thai CD of children’s songs and Ben got up and started dancing, swinging his arms, moving his hands like a Thai dancer, and singing along to parts of the songs.  It just blew me away and I had such a fun time watching him.  During one song, a song about the days in the week, Ben started to correct me with the way I was holding my fingers for each day of the week.  It was clear to me that although I couldn’t understand a word of the song, Ben did and had likely been taught how to sing and perform it with his classmates.  Ben is also getting more and more comfortable speaking Thai, perhaps from attending a Thai pre-school, watching Thai children movies, and everyone around him speaking in Thai, but there are times when Ben just wants to speak English.  For example, on the drive back from Chiang Rai, we passed some pictures/sculptures of elephants – something that happens often here in Thailand.  When we passed them, I pointed them out to Ben and said, “Look, Chang!” (“chang” is the Thai word for elephant).  Ben said, “No, elephant”.  I repeated back, “No, chang”, and Ben came back saying “No, elephant”.  This game went on for about a minute or so and was a lot of fun for both of us.  After we arrived back in Phitsanulok yesterday, I took Ben aside and told him that “Daddy and Mae” would have to leave to go working.  I told Ben this so that he could understand what was happening and why we were leaving.  Although Ben has finally gotten much closer to Grandma or “Yai”, he did not like this and said, “No, Daddy stay.”  For the rest of the evening, Ben was very clingy to both Jet and I, which made leaving him very difficult.  Jet told me that after he awoke this morning to not find us there with him, he told Yai, “Daddy, Mae working … Ben working too!”, which I guess was Ben trying to tell Grandma that he wanted to be with Jet and I.  A funny part of the trip to Chiang Rai was just before we checked-out of the resort that we stayed at.  Ben was waiting outside the door for me as I passed through the room checking to see if we had left anything behind.  All of a sudden, Jet and I heard Ben screaming as if he was hurt, which scared us both.  We both ran to the door to see Ben outside just a few feet with an absolute look of panic on his face as he watched a huge beetle walk past him.  The only way I could calm Ben down was by picking it up (with a sandal) and tossing it away into the bushes.  The most memorable part of the trip to Chiang Rai (for me) was breakfast on Friday morning.  Ben was a handful (as usual) and Jet and I took turns watching him while the other ate.  As I took Ben hand-in-hand walking around all of the lovely flowers and plants around the resort, I told Ben, “Benja, Daddy like walking with Ben”, to which Ben surprised me by walking in front of me, grabbed my left leg and said, “Ben ruk Daddy” (Ben loves Daddy).  There is no better Father’s Day gift than that.

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