Archive for July, 2010


July 8, 2010

Our flights back to the US were relatively uneventful and smooth, to which I am grateful.  Ben was good for the first 6 hour flight to Narita, sleeping much of the way.  For the remaining 12 hour flight to Chicago, that was another story.  Ben slept early on, but was awake and wanting to play video games (and change to another one after a minute), look outside the closed windows, and about anything else that required much attention.  We were sitting in the side seats on our ANA flights, which had poor air circulation and were about 10 degrees warmer than the middle seats on the flight.  With about two hours to go on the flight, I started to feel a bit uneasy and a bit air sick.  It never got out of hand, fortunately, and once we stepped off the flight and into “fresh” air (is Chicago air fresh?), I felt 100% better.  Having only limited experience returning from an international flight into Chicago (once, from London in the fall of 1993), I did not know what to expect.  Having gone through the international routine in Atlanta several times, you could almost set your watch to getting out of the airport in about 50 minutes, barring no technology snafu’s like our trip returning last year.  Since it was a holiday (Independence day) and a Sunday morning, I don’t think you can count this as typical circumstances.  There was a hefty line for non-US citizens and no line at all for US citizens at the customs station.  The man that checked all 4 of our passports (including Jet’s Mom’s Thai passport) was super nice.  He was in his 20’s and commented on Ben’s passport photo, which was taken when Ben was only about 1 or 2 months old.  He said that he just had his child’s passport photo taken (2 years old), which led to a little banter and him sending us on our way with no trouble at all.  The next hurdle, baggage check.  We had 8 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and 2 purses stuffed on three roll-away carts.  I held Ben as Jet and her Mom followed, each of us pushing a cart of luggage to the person at the check-point for determining whether baggage screening was necessary.  Again, there was no wait to reach this point.  The first question that she asked me was how long Jet’s Mom was going to be staying (30 days), which I wasn’t sure was half-joking by the sheer volume of luggage.  She next asked if we were bringing back any fruits, vegetables, or meats, to which I responded on the cuff that we only had snacks for Ben.  “Chips” was all I could muster up, though we surely had no chips and didn’t eat any while in Thailand … I drew a blank which Jet did not let go unnoticed afterwards, but we were happy to make it through.  Perhaps looking sympathetic managing all of this luggage while holding Ben, she gave us the pass-through and we were outside waiting for Dad to pick us up.  The whole process from exiting the plane to standing outside was about 20 minutes.  Remarkable.  Dad’s van looked brand new (father’s day gift of car cleaning was inspired) and fit all of our luggage and passengers like a glove.  After 1 hour and 40 minutes of driving some back roads, we were home in Mukwonago.  We had looked forward to spending the afternoon at Sandy’s house for some dinner, but we all kicked our feet up for a rest at 11:30am and woke up in what seemed like only an instant 7 hours later.  Plans scrapped.  We stopped by Pick ‘n Save to pick up some groceries at 8:00pm, which when we finished, was just in time to see some firework displays off in the distance from the parking lot.  Welcome home.

It is now Thursday and I think we have all just about recovered from jet lag.  Jet had to start back up to work on Tuesday, so her recovery time had to be a little bit quicker than the rest of us.  Ben has been tough getting adjusted to the time changes.  The fact that Ben was coddled so much over the last month has not helped at all either.  I have not been able to get Ben to sleep in his room by himself yet.  I probably could, but Jet and her Mom just don’t have the same nerve to hear him scream and cry and continuously put him back into his bed.  As a compromise, I have allowed Ben to sleep with Jet’s Mom.  This has allowed Ben to finally bond with her and has a date certain point (August 5) when this behavior must end – when Jet’s Mom returns back to Thailand.

Those have not been the only setbacks since we have returned.  Our basement smells like cat, which may be the result of heat and humidity for the first time exposing cat pee that wasn’t entirely cleaned when we first moved in.  We had fun on Tuesday taking Ben and Jet’s Mom to a local driving range and mini-golf course.  To match that fun, I took them to the Kettle Moraine walking trails in Eagle for a nice, healthy hike.  We were about 20 yards into the path when I turned around and saw literally 100 mosquitoes hovering on and around Ben.  I shouted to Jet’s Mom to return to the car as I picked-up Ben and ran.  And this was after we spent 5 minutes applying mosquito spray on us all.  We settled for a 30 minute stay at the play set in the park less than a mile from our house.  On the way back, I took 67 through Eagle and passed through the path of the recent tornado that went through so that we could all see the damage.

I will spend a little time back at UW-Whitewater today to pick up some things that will help get me ready for the fall semester.  Jet’s Mom has been making food for us since we have been back, so tonight I will make baby-back ribs.  Tomorrow is the ceremony for Kristin for her promotion at the fire department while Saturday is the family “father’s day” get-together at Pike Lake that has been planned for months.  A busy few days, but lots to look forward to.

Last Days

July 1, 2010

Though this is not nearly my longest stay in Thailand, this does feel like the longest.  Perhaps that is because the recency of this trip biases myself against earlier visits, but the constant work and absence from Jet and Ben has made the time go by much slower.  I am fortunate to have stayed at the Hua Mak campus this visit because it has allowed me to connect with old friends and make new ones as well.  I doubt the same would have been possible had I lived at City Campus, which was planned until the crisis in Bangkok in April-May.  At least I do have many accomplishments to claim for the sacrifices. 

I have (nearly) finished teaching another two sections of MBA classes.  I have made progress towards international partnerships that I hope will stick.  I have two manuscripts out for review with another three in the works.  I have attended church every day, with the exception of the 4 days that I was not in Bangkok.  I have even done the first readings in over half of those services.  I have lost anywhere from 15-20 pounds.  And I am ready to return back to the US, energized to do so much more.

When we arrived, we spent the first two days in Hua Hin and enjoyed the beach.  Last weekend, Jet, Ben, and several other family members went to Pattaya for two days to enjoy the beach.  I doubt that I will forget the moment I saw Ben late on Friday night when I met up with everyone after my last class.  Ben gave me such a strong hug around my neck and held me for literally two minutes.  Though Ben was a naughty boy at times, for which I had to discipline him (timeouts), we had such a great time together.  He hugged me and kissed me unprompted several times that felt so strange, but so needed.  Maybe it was awkward because it had been so long (nearly 3 weeks) since I had seen him last.  After all, we had spent hours in each others’ company every day since returning to Milwaukee.

When I arrived, the feeling I had was that I could almost sense a timer going off around me.  Since I was only going to be here 30 days this time, I felt as if I would be always fighting against time and that I would not nearly have enough to do all I wanted to accomplish.  Probably brought on by being away from Jet and Ben so long and not having the chance to visit Phitsanulok, that sense of time slipped away.  I never did feel a countdown-like feeling (e.g., 2 weeks left, 1 week left, 4 days left, etc.) that I remember having the previous two years.  In fact, it is hard to believe that I have only 2 days left.  Perhaps it is because I have been so engaged with work that this has felt more like a business trip than a vacation, but it is an experience that I will learn from for my future visits returning to Thailand.

Our flight leaves at 11:55pm on Saturday night (11:55am Saturday in Milwaukee) and will arrive in Chicago (after a 2 hour layover in Narita) at 8:00am Sunday morning.  Independence Day.  Hopefully we will have plenty of time to rest and sleep on the flight over.  We are bringing Jet’s mother back for one month with us, so that should ease the burden of keeping Ben entertained on the long flights.  Then it is getting back to business and life-as-usual.  Dad will pick us up from the airport.  Sandy has a party scheduled later that day that I hope we will not be too exhausted to attend.  Jet has Monday off from work to recover from jet-lag.  Things will return back to normal again.