Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas 2008 2

video

See our other Christmas videos on youtube:

Has Santa Been

and

Our House in Gisborne

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Last Laos Blog

Biggest news is we’ll be back in Oz November 14 for the foreseeable future!


Looking forward to catching up with everyone!! Family and friends are our main reason for coming back along with Evie starting school this year. At this stage we plan to rent a place in Gisborne and will crash at Steve’s parents place in Essendon (or anyone else’s who will have us for a night or two?) till we find one. We do plan to be back in St. Kilda a fair bit of time and Steve’s friend/shares business partner Rob has a flat in Middle park we can crash at some weekends. So we’ll have some weekends down there.


What we’ve loved about Laos


Steve – Being able to spend time with the kids, having a great house and a maid, no ads and little consumer culture, friendly and down to earth Laos people, $4 massages, empty swimming pools to enjoy, getting my body into better shape with yoga.


Kathy – Beautiful fresh fruit and veggies pretty cheap too. Just had lovely mango for afternoon tea – so sweet and fresh. The veggies seem to shine and I'm pretty sure they are not radioactive!!


Easy going pace of the people here – “Bo Peng Yang” is a phrase much uttered, meaning “no worries”.


Having a maid has been amazing of course, so great to always have a clean house without doing anything plus most of cooking, laundry and shopping being done.


The beautiful Mekong River is great to see regularly, watching its different levels and walking across the bed during dry season (and missing it flood during wet season).


Just exchanging many smiles with the locals and a few words we can string together.


Getting to know our favourite tuk tuk drivers.




Our great house, so easy to live in and so much space.


Listening to the morning sounds – chickens, dogs, cows, bird and monks collecting their offerings with a beautiful song. Not so great if accompanied by awake children wanting to get up before 6am of course!!!


Things we’ve learnt


Steve- How huge a culture gap really is and how everything you took for granted about people is just how the people in your country are, how separate a world the expats live to the locals.


Kathy - how good it is to take life at a slow pace, as long as you have good cafes!! Smiling makes you feel good.


Things we’re looking forward to in Australia


Steve - Family and friends is number 1 by far.
Having a car, no visa runs across borders, being able to walk at a reasonable pace without sweating.


Kathy - Having lots of places to go with the children – the beach, playgrounds, libraries, friends places etc


Evie is looking forward to going to the beach, school, playgrounds and seeing her friends. Ben wants to stay in Laos as he doesn’t remember much of Australia. When we talk about going back, he is looking forward to seeing Callum and Nicola, his cousins in England. Poor little thing, doesn’t know Australia. We are sure he will adapt quickly once we get back and he meets all his great relations and friends.


OK what have we done the last 4 months?


We had 6 weeks away on holiday to Thailand, Malaysia and the UK. Most people seem to think we’re on a holiday over here so figure it’s a holiday from a holiday. Our trip started with a 36 hour overland and sea journey to Krabi in southern Thailand. In sequence this involved: tuk tuk, bus, tuk tuk, overnight train, taxi, plane, mini bus and boat. Thankfully we are all pretty good travelers by now so it actually was OK.


We stayed on a peninsula cut off from the mainland with beautiful beaches and spectacular scenery (karsts mountain cliffs that rise out of the sea). Lots of rock climbers struggling up with ropes and monkeys who make it look easy – even the baby ones.


Unfortunately the kids got flu so we moved to the mainland which is also a beach place but more touristy and kind of tacky but we actually had a great time there for 4-5 days. We were lucky enough to meet a very tough looking English guy with tattoos and no shirt who showed us the best way to the town and who turned out to be a doctor and gave us a rundown on asthma options etc and took us to the pharmacy.


We then went to Malacca in Malaysia which is s small city close to Kuala Lumpar with a lot of history having being colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and English in succession. Real mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese people live there now. Highlight of the Malacca for the kids was the zoo. Dancing elephants anyone?


Trip to England was great apart from the shocking summer weather. More rain and cloud than a Melbourne winter. We stayed with Kathys’ parents in North London and also sister Gerry and family in Guildford. Gerry’s twins Calum and Nicola are 11 years old and were fantastic with our kids. We also caught up with other friends which was great!


The parks and playgrounds were are real highlight for all of us – beautiful English countryside feeling with the rolling green hills, majestic trees and huge playgrounds to keep the kids happy and active. Steve’s highlight was playing cricket for a first 11 team in the rain – second top score 23 not out. Yet to be dismissed in England the three times I’ve batted (and I don’t even play cricket). No wonder we beat them!!


Back in Lao life pretty well rolls on as usual. Very relaxed and quiet. Our last few weeks here we have actually had more of a chance to meet and socialise with some friends we really click with more than the average expats. Pity we didn’t meet and/or make the effort with some of them earlier!


Share market is drastic – if it is reflecting the next year or two in the real economy like it often does then we’re looking at severe recession, people losing jobs etc in a pretty bad way. Steve has spent the last few weeks spreading doom and groom re the global economy among the expats here – Kathy has to remind him to stop depressing people!!!


The good news for us is our portfolio is mostly cash so the shares part is relatively small. The bad news is that it’s getting rapidly smaller without me having to sell anything. We’ve decided we’ll both look for jobs (part time preferably) when we get back in case the economy/sharemarket gets a lot worse and whoever finds something has probably drawn the work straw and the other one gets the kids. So please let us know if you here of any jobs you might thing we would be suitable for.


We really look forward to catching up and please send us news if you’ve got a minute. We love every email we get living here at the edge of the know internet universe!


Your friends Steve Kathy Evie and Ben



Here are some photos of the last few months



Playing with Thai friends Aun and Baby Lily



Painting figurines with Thai friend Aun



AFL grand final day at the Australia club next to the pool - GO HAWKS!!

Baby goat outside our house

Visiting a kinder in London - before you complain about Australian costs -
here it's about $120 a day standard no government rebate

Evie, Ben and Cousins Callum and Nicola at a playground


Kathy's sisters, parents, niece and nephew

Evie and Ben at Grandma and Grandad's house in London

Ronald goes Thai - sawadeee cap Ronald

Evie and Ben are helped out when caught in rain - very stylish plastic bags!!!

Stress - Thai island style



Tired from crime fighting SpiderBen has a nap in a tuk tuk



Boat going to beach near Krabi in Thailand - the engine

in the background is from a car




Bin collection Laos Style. The guys sit on top of the truck with the rubbish.



Our Road - before it got worse in the rains


Local kids and our kids in the front yard


Locals collecting coconuts from our garden - this lot came from 2 trees!!



Anyone fancy climbing for coconuts!































Biggest news is we’ll be back in Oz November 14 for the foreseeable future! Looking forward to catching up with everyone!! Family and friends are our main reason for coming back along with Evie starting school this year. At this stage we plan to rent a place in Gisborne and will crash at Steve’s parents place in Essendon (or anyone else’s who will have us for a night or two?) till we find one. We do plan to be back in St. Kilda a fair bit of time and Steve’s friend/shares business partner Rob has a flat in Middle park we can crash at some weekends. So we’ll have some weekends down there.

What we’ve loved about Laos
































Steve – Being able to spend time with the kids, having a great house and a maid, no ads and little consumer culture, friendly and down to earth Laos people, $4 massages, empty swimming pools to enjoy, getting my body into better shape with yoga.
































































Kathy – Beautiful fresh fruit and veggies pretty cheap too. Just had lovely mango for afternoon tea – so sweet and fresh. The veggies seem to shine and I'm pretty sure they are not radioactive!!
































































Easy going pace of the people here – “Bo Peng Yang” is a phrase much uttered, meaning “no worries”. Having a maid has been amazing of course, so great to always have a clean house without doing anything plus most of cooking, laundry and shopping being done.
































































The beautiful Mekong River is great to see regularly, watching its different levels and walking across the bed during dry season (and missing it flood during wet season).
































































Just exchanging many smiles with the locals, and a few words we can string together. Getting to know our favourite tuk tuk drivers.

Our great house, so easy to live in and so much space.
































































Listening to the morning sounds – chickens, dogs, cows, bird and monks collecting their offerings with a beautiful song. Not so great if accompanied by awake children wanting to get up before 6am of course!!!
































































Things we’ve learnt

Steve- How huge a culture gap really is and how everything you took for granted about people is just how the people in your country are, how separate a world the expats live to the locals.
































































Kathy - how good it is to take life at a slow pace, as long as you have good cafes!! Smiling makes you feel good.
































































Things we’re looking forward to in Australia

Steve - Family and friends is number 1 by far.
































































Having a car, no visa runs across borders, being able to walk at a reasonable pace without sweating.
































































Kathy - Having lots of places to go with the children – the beach, playgrounds, libraries, friends places etc
































Evie is looking forward to going to the beach, school, playgrounds and seeing her friends. Ben wants to stay in Laos as he doesn’t remember much of Australia. When we talk about going back, he is looking forward to seeing Callum and Nicola, his cousins in England. Poor little thing, doesn’t know Australia. We are sure he will adapt quickly once we get back and he meets all his great relations and friends.
































































OK what have we done the last 4 months?

We had 6 weeks away on holiday to Thailand, Malaysia and the UK. Most people seem to think we’re on a holiday over here so figure it’s a holiday from a holiday.

Our trip started with a 36 hour overland and sea journey to Krabi in southern Thailand. In sequence this involved: tuk tuk, bus, tuk tuk, overnight train, taxi, plane, mini bus and boat. Thankfully we are all pretty good travelers by now so it actually was OK.
































































We stayed on a peninsula cut off from the mainland with beautiful beaches and spectacular scenery (karsts mountain cliffs that rise out of the sea). Lots of rock climbers struggling up with ropes and monkeys who make it look easy – even the baby ones.
































































Unfortunately the kids got flu so we moved to the mainland which is also a beach place but more touristy and kind of tacky but we actually had a great time there for 4-5 days. We were lucky enough to meet a very tough looking English guy with tattoos and no shirt who showed us the best way to the town and who turned out to be a doctor and gave us a rundown on asthma options etc and took us to the pharmacy.
































































We then went to Malacca in Malaysia which is s small city close to Kuala Lumpar with a lot of history having being colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and English in succession. Real mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese people live there now. Highlight of the Malacca for the kids was the zoo. Dancing elephants anyone?

Trip to England was great apart from the shocking summer weather. More rain and cloud than a Melbourne winter. We stayed with Kathys’ parents in North London and also sister Gerry and family in Guildford. Gerry’s twins Calum and Nicola are 11 years old and were fantastic with our kids. We also caught up with other friends which was great!

































The parks and playgrounds were are real highlight for all of us – beautiful English countryside feeling with the rolling green hills, majestic trees and huge playgrounds to keep the kids happy and active. Steve’s highlight was playing cricket for a first 11 team in the rain – second top score 23 not out. Yet to be dismissed in England the three times I’ve batted (and I don’t even play cricket). No wonder we beat them!!
































Back in Lao life pretty well rolls on as usual. Very relaxed and quiet. Our last few weeks here we have actually had more of a chance to meet and socialise with some friends we really click with more than the average expats. Pity we didn’t meet and/or make the effort with some of them earlier!

Share market is drastic – if it is reflecting the next year or two in the real economy like it often does then we’re looking at severe recession, people losing jobs etc in a pretty bad way. Steve has spent the last few weeks spreading doom and groom re the global economy among the expats here – Kathy has to remind him to stop depressing people!!!
































































The good news for us is our portfolio is mostly cash so the shares part is relatively small. The bad news is that it’s getting rapidly smaller without me having to sell anything. We’ve decided we’ll both look for jobs (part time preferably) when we get back in case the economy/sharemarket gets a lot worse and whoever finds something has probably drawn the work straw and the other one gets the kids. So please let us know if you here of any jobs you might thing we would be suitable for.
































































We really look forward to catching up and please send us news if you’ve got a minute. We love every email we get living here at the edge of the know internet universe!

Your friends
Steve Kathy Evie and Ben

































































Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Laos - May - July 2008

Hope you are all doing well. Kathy and I chat about you often and welcome any news we get from you. Evie also misses you sometimes but Ben is firmly living moment to moment.

It's still wet season here so about half the days are mostly overcast and temps around 20's which is pretty cool for here. We get periods where the tropical storms roll in for the evening or afternoons which are fun to watch from inside. Not so fun to be caught out in though we have had a few trips home in the rain in Tuk Tuk's (not water proof) singing rousing renditions of "row row row your Tuk Tuk gently down the road..... Not sure what the Tuk Tuk drivers think of it. Guess they figure we are weird falangs (foreigners) and it must be normal wherever we come from.


Kids are doing well. Ben had an early second birthday party with various friends of his and ours which went really well. Lots of presents, games, balloons, friends and cake - all a child could ask for (and most adults too). Ben is very proud of his new Spiderman outfit and likes singing "Spiderman Spiderman boy" (meaning he is Spiderman). He also loves the giant water and air filled seahorse that he alternately punches kicks and then hugs and kisses.

Ben has taken after Evie in the chattering department and between them they provide an endless and sometimes funny commentary on the world and what they think of it. Typical comments from Ben if we're out and about include - Truck, Big Bus, Motorbike, Tractor, Buddha, Monks - gives you a reasonable run down of a street scene in Laos. One of our friends said she liked the way Evie spoke and could listen to her talk all day - Kathy suggested that if she came over to our place for day her wish would be granted. On the bright side the kids play together well most of the time and one of the favourite games together is hide and seek - if Steve is involved they can hide for a long time while he is reading his book.

On the health front we discovered that Evie had worms (hookworm) - probably helps explain why she weighs 17 kilos now and was 18 kilos when we left Australia 15 months ago. Amazingly we read that about a quarter of the people in the world have this type of worm - no wonder they are all so slim over here. Having got rid of the worms Evie's tummy is rapidly growing back towards former proportions. We try to go swimming as often as we can and the kids both love the water - Evie likes doing somersaults under the water and jumping off dad's shoulders and Ben happily paddles round with his floaties.

We have a story and singing time here for little expat kids each Friday and it has developed into a good core group of around a dozen kids plus parents. It's a fun way to spend a Friday arvo with some socialising and some hamming it up for the kids. The people who come are Australian, English, Belgium, Danish, Canadian and a Japanese lady with 15 month old triplets and two nanny's.



We are really enjoying our garden and were thrilled to find an avocado tree a few months ago. The avocados are big now and we have eaten quite a few and given some away. Pretty fresh tasting!!!

We had Rob (Steve’s share trading friend/partner) and Robyne (Rob's real partner) come stay with us for 4 days which was great. Nothing like hanging out with friends you have a history with. They had some of the more difficult names for Lao people to pronounce so mostly ended up being Lob and Lobbin to the locals. This was pretty appropriate given Wimbledon was on and we were watching the silent version on TV (at the moment for some random reason no sound on satellite TV so we provide our own special comments). Highlights of their stay included dinner at French restaurant and they really enjoyed the luxurious $6 massages at the spa round the corner from our place.

We also had some high culture expat style attending the Vientiane Ball. This involved Steve getting a suit made and Kathy getting frocked up via a dress sent from Australia then a dinner and dancing to a surprising good Lao band playing Western covers. Kind of similar to going out dinner then the pub in Australia, apart from everyone being dressed up. Was great to get out there and have fun dancing, drinking and laughing.

We are off for a holiday to near Krabi (Raillay a beach in Southern Thailand near where they filmed "The Beach") on July 12. After 2 weeks there fly out of KL in Malaysia to visit family and friends in the UK for 4 weeks. It's about half the cost to fly from here than from Melbourne which does make a big difference, especially as Ben will be 2 very soon so pays mostly full fare. Very much looking forward to spending time with everyone in the UK. Steve's share trading will be minimised as the time difference in the UK is pretty brutal but as the market is pretty brutal anyway it's probably not a bad time to sit it out.

We have put a few photos into another post.

- Some Ben Birthday photos
- Some interested aspects of Tuk Tuks – high tech with fan, speaker and one tuk tuk pushing the one we were in with it’s front wheel due to running out of petrol
- With local children on the front veranda


Enjoy the pictures and please email.

Love
Steve Kathy Evie and Ben