Northern Thailand

Feb 10-25, 2019

Chiang Mai

We arrived into Chiang Mai at our so cute homestay. It was the first time we had a little kitchen in a month! It’s crazy the little things that you get excited over.

We took to the streets to explore. So so so so hot. And the air quality was still the pits – I was beginning to wonder when the air quality was going to get better. After 12 days in Myanmar where it seemed like I was choking on the air, I was craving some fresh ocean breezes. Sadly, we were still landlocked and were to be for another month until we saw the ocean again.

We decided to buy masks given how tragic the air quality was. It’s not any cooler behind a mask, let me tell you.

Chiang Mai is a town that, IMHO, is set for tourists. There’s tourist things everywhere. It also has some pretty incredible temples located right in town which we visited.

The next day, I THOUGHT we had to leave for the Chai Lai Orchid which is a place where we were visiting elephants. We packed everything up (on my order), and we were waiting for the bus to pick us up until the people at the homestay said to us “But you stay one more night!” I finally clued in that we were a day ahead of ourselves. Thank goodness it was Valentine’s day otherwise I’m sure would have hear more from Luc about my grave mistake.

We decided to find a fish spa to pamper our feet. OMG, the fish eating your feet is almost unbearable with the feeling it gives you. I ADORE my feet being tickled and touched but man oh man this was almost too much! Eventually it got better. You just had to power through the feeling for about 3 mins. Later on we headed to the massive night market and wandered around, bought a wet bag that I’d been eyeing up since I say the MM Families in Koh Tao, and also a couple of shirts. Starting to get a bit tired of all the markets that are everywhere. It seems like the market is always a place to “see” in the top 10 things to see in “name the place”.

Chai Lai Orchid

The next morning was the actual day to leave so we packed up (again) and waited for our red truck to bring us to the elephants.

We arrived and I asked if the one day tour could be split into 2 half days which ended up not being an issue. So we immediately got to head to the elephants and feel them. The elephants are like no other animal I’ve ever been near. It’s almost like they are communicating with you on an emotional level. There’s this intense draw to be with them, near them, and it’s almost like they are giving you their love. I can’t really explain it but it seemed like all negative emotions I might have been carrying, just melted away when I was near them.

We did a little walk through the forest where Luc and Vivi rode on one of them bareback. The mahout (elephant’s person) said that it’s ok, as long as it’s not for very long and you’re not on a big heavy metal seat.

After that we went in the water with them. The babies are adorable. Again a truly special experience bathing them and connecting with them. It was fun to watch them play around.

After that we hopped into the back of a truck and headed to the rafting point where we were able to raft down a river with a guide at the front. The scenery was spectacular. The only thing that was a little lame is that you rafted past elephants that were still being saddled up with heavy metal seats where multiple people were riding them. It’s hard to believe that this is still being done even though it’s widely considered poor practice.

The next morning we had breakfast and hopped into the back of a truck again and headed to where we were to do a half day hike. The hike was challenging but beautiful! We got to swim in two different waterfalls and lunch was prepared for us. Our guide made bamboo sticky rice over the fire. So delish! We walked through a  hill tribe where we got to watch them weave and learned a bit about our guides family.

The next day we spent the morning chilling out at the restaurant that is there overlooking the river. The elephants stroll past, there are rafts that float back and it’s just to calm. Chai Lai Orchid is such a special place for me. It’s a place that rehabilitates elephants and gives them a better life but it also is a place where women who have been involved in sex trafficking are able to come and get out of that world, learn English, and train in the restaurant industry to gain further skills. This organization is called Daughter’s Rising. I felt so good being here not only because of the surroundings but also because I felt a little like I was giving back by spending my dollars at this place. You can volunteer here and even take home stray dogs that end up here. I was sad to say good bye but hopefully I’ll be back one day.

We drove like a bat out of hell back to Chiang Mai. Not sure but the driver we had was driving like a maniac. I have such a hard time telling people who drive like this to slow down. I feel like an old lady but I just get so anxious when they are weaving in and out of traffic, pedal to the metal and screeching to a halt. Luc, correct me if I’m exaggerating.

We stayed for 2 more days in Chiang Mai. One day was a planning day, where we’re going next, buying plane and bus tickets, applying for Vietnam visas, and then we got massages…… and Luc got a haircut! FINALLY!!

We had been lugging Vivi’s car seat around with us wherever we go and we’ve used it only a handful of times. Luc and Vivi have been trying to strategically forget it places. I’m getting a bit tired of carrying it but never using it. We’ve been riding on boats, busses, back of trucks, cars without seatbelts, airplanes, rafts, and I can count on one hand, how many times we’ve used it. So I got on a Chiang Mai mom’s group and gave away the car seat. So long and thank you car seat for protecting my little girl.

We stayed at this place in the middle of town that was the smallest place we’ve ever stayed. There was literally 3 beds and just enough room for our bags on the floor. It’s the only place we didn’t get toilet paper and it wasn’t included. Say what?? Luc said the guy could sell the toilet paper on the side and make a fortune. We went to yet another night market and ate street food (it just happened to be sushi on the street).

Chiang Rai

We took a 6 hour bus ride to Chiang Rai and checked into our homestay. Although, the guy who owns the homestay didn’t work out that we would be there so we got a room that was tragic. The bed sheet had cigarette holes in it, no AC and it was just dingy. The next day we moved into the room we were supposed to have. We still didn’t have AC but the bed was much nicer as was the bathroom. The nice thing about this place was that the pool was the focal point of the place so it was easy to chat with other people about where they were from and where they were going. Thailand has soooo many French tourists. We made some jokes about there was probably no one left if France because they were all there! But what luck – we speak French so it was easy to make quick friends!

We explored Chiang Rai in the heat, and visited a hill tribe museum where we learned about hill tribes and the opium epidemic that raged in Laos not that long ago (2012 was when they started to put an end to it). We had hamburgers for lunch and walked through a beautiful flower garden.

I remember the place where we went for my birthday. Luc had gone for a run and spotted it and the food was delicious. I had yet another burger for dinner. These two are starting to make fun of my burger and French fry love. I think already by this time I was starting to get sick of noodles and rice. This became a bone of contention between me and Luc for 2 reasons:

  1. He doesn’t like to spend a lot of money – ever. Many arguments and comments about me spending more than he did on food mostly was beginning to really tear at me. I had spent the last 5 years saving my money for this trip, I’m going to spend it how I want. What I ended up doing was contributing $100 of my own money to make him shut up for a while about me buying western food (always more expensive) and cocktails (they don’t have wine and the beer is like kokanee – gross!).
  2. Street food is always way less expensive so he wanted us to eat this all the time. And it wasn’t good enough that it was sushi on the street, it had to be authentic. This also became a “thing” that we fought about. So many comments and issues about food and money that I just didn’t know would be such a problem travelling.


We’ve always, for the last 15 years, had arguments around food. It’s the most problematic issue in our marriage hands down. Travelling just exasperated this issue. It’s not until we get to Dalat, Vietnam where it comes to a head. More later.

We moved after 3 days into Chiang Rai centre. We had great hopes of meeting up with the MM family but they were all really sick and it turned out that Vivi also got quite sick there with a fever so we never ended up seeing all of them (Luc met up with Cam to go to a night market one night). We visited the clock and did a little meet up at a hostel with live music.

It’s always so disconcerting with your kid gets sick in a foreign country especially when it’s a fever. So we stayed home and just rested while we tried to control the fever. The next day the fever had broken but she was still experiencing issues with the toilet so we tried to wait until we thought she was better before heading out to the White Temple.

The White Temple was pretty incredible to see. It’s stunning and fairly new I think. It’s a little on the bizarre side too.

We went to the hospital after that. Reason being is that I wanted to get Vivi checked and get some antibiotics if she needed it before we left for Laos the next day and we wouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital if she got sick again.

The hospital was AMAZING! So quick, clean, spoke English, and we got the drugs right there so no need to go to a pharmacy. It was a better experience then going to the hospital in Switzerland for my kidney stone. We were able to pay, it was so cheap, and out in a flash. I felt a lot better about leaving the next day to go on a boat ride for two days.

REFLECTION:

  • Thailand is beautiful and set up for travellers. It’s fairly easy to get around Thailand and most people speak English. Getting money out of ATM’s was impossible for us (and we are later finding out it’s hard in Bali as well) not sure why. We have Visa and MC and they both don’t work. Also, in Thailand, not many places take credit card to pay for things (restaurant, shopping, etc…), it’s few and far between so we always needed to go to a bank to get money out.
  • We’re learning more and more about each other… The hot is really taking a toll on me and Vivi. Luc seems almost unfazed. For me and her it’s just becomes so intense that it’s hard to even see straight. There sweat pouring out of my face and it doesn’t stop which is nothing like I’ve ever experienced and it’s so uncomfortable.
  • I’m super surprised by the air quality here. I couldn’t imagine living here full time given this. It also makes me so grateful for living on the West Coast of Canada.
  • I love watching Vivi as she learns, explores, and meets new people. She’s such a great little backpacker and super resilient. She tries new foods, new things, and is absolutely fearless.
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Myanmar/Burma

Jan 30-Feb 10, 2019

Going to Myanmar, I was still pretty nervous about travelling. I knew that Myanmar would be the least set up for tourists and I wondered how “rough” it was going to be. Rough being not being able to get around, no one understanding us, transportation might be sketchy… all these things went through my mind.

Mandalay

We arrived in Mandalay and it was a bit of a culture shock. Myanmar has so much garbage and was so hot. The garbage was really incredible. I wondered why people would just throw so much of their trash on the side of the road. Then I remembered it was like this in Turkey and also a bit in Thailand. I reflected to Luc and he said that they probably don’t have any way of cleaning up their garbage. No trucks come by and get it. So what do you do but throw it away or burn it? It was my first taste a real shock and realizing how good we have it in Canada.

We got to the hotel and went up to our room. Nice enough place but it smelled like kerosene or gas. I was worried about mosquitos as this was a malaria zone and we didn’t have any pills for malaria. It’s a bit of a long story but I should have got them before we left Canada but we didn’t know how long we would be in the Malaria Zones so I didn’t want to over buy as the pills are really expensive. I thought we could get some before we left Switzerland. And then I completely forgot when we were in Switzerland and of course you couldn’t find the pills that I wanted anywhere. There are other pills but one makes you light sensitive (not great in Asia) and the other can cause psychosis.

Luc of course wanted to go out and explore immediately. Me on the other hand just needed to get my bearings. This would be a common theme when travelling from place to place. Luc immediately wanted to explore and me wanting to take an hour or the rest of the day (depending on how long we travelled) to just gather myself. Neither is right or wrong, but it certainly adds to differences and conflicts in what we want to do. What he ended up doing is going outside and hopping on the back of a scooter and riding around Mandalay.

The next morning we changed rooms. I couldn’t sleep because of the smell and Luc thought he saw a bed bug. The we hired a driver who didn’t speak hardly any English and burped all day while driving us around to the sites. Driving through intersections was INSANITY.

We went to the Mandalay Royal Palace which was beautiful, the top of Mandalay hill where there was another temple, Kuthodaw Pagoda that houses the worlds largest book, Shwenandaw Monastery, we had a delicious and huge lunch that is typical Myanmar style with many many dishes to choose from and finally to U Being bridge where there seemed to be hundreds of people there to see the sunset. It was a long day.

The next day we climbed aboard a boat to take us down the Irrawaddy River. It was a wonderful day. What a great way to travel. Smooth, slow, watching the day go by, it was really beautiful. It wasn’t until the end when shit went waaaaaaay sideways.

The boat didn’t have some easy plank you could walk to get off it… it was essentially 1 piece of wood over the river about 50m long with railings that were sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, sometimes none, sometimes too far away to reach. I lost my shit. First things first, I needed to change my shoes. Which essentially put me as the last tourist to disembark. I think I might have had an anxiety attack. I was crying, and just couldn’t bring myself to walk on this shitty plank. I finally did it but could only take about 4 steps before I started sobbing. It was just too much. By the end of it I was hating the people who drove the boat, hating Myanmar, hating that I had to do this, hating everything about it. Of course Luc, on the other hand saw the plank and thought “what fun!” I’m telling you, sometimes I just can’t handle it.

Walking the plank
One of the worst moments in South East Asia

We hiked up the hill after and someone was waiting there with a car to take us to the hotel. Small miracles. And then we got stopped as we needed to pay some fee before entering into Bagan. Which broke the bank for us and we had no idea about.

Bagan

We checked into our hotel again and I broke down crying. The hotel seemed like it could house bugs of all kinds. I think after all the bed bug incidents, I’m suffering from PTSD a bit because bugs just really creep me out now. I wondered why we had come here. So far I was NOT having a good time.

We slept and were awoken by either a dog fight, a rooster crowing, or birds that were landing on our tin roof. I was feeling sick like the beginnings of a cold so we totally stopped for that day and just chilled out. Luc couldn’t (of course) so he rented an ebike (electric scooter) and cruised around to different places. We watched the sunset and then took in a puppet show which is a thing in Myanmar to see.

Two things we learned while there: when two dogs are stuck together (because we saw this twice) and about the monks of Myanmar as they are everywhere. This also led to learning about Buddhism too.

The next morning we rented ebikes and it was sooooo fun! I was of course a bit scared to go at first but after a while it was so wonderful to be able to see all the temples in Bagan by bike. There really is no other way that gives you that freedom to just go at your own pace and see everything you want to see. I adored the ebike. It reminded me of when I was on the Camino and rented a bike and just got to go and be free.

The next morning we walked to a temple to watch the sunrise and see the hot air balloons over Bagan. What a sight to see. One of the highlights of the trip to see this gorgeous view. On the way back we were assaulted with the smell of burning plastic everywhere we went. It was revolting. I wasn’t sure at this point if it was the burning that was causing my cough or a cold but I continued to have it for a few weeks after Bagan.

Yangon

We took the longest bus we took the whole trip which was 12 hours this day. It was long but not too bad. A ton of garbage all along the side of the road. We lost a few things getting off this bus as I think we felt a bit rushed and it was dark and we were tired. We got to the train station and so many people trying to get you to take their taxi. It all becomes quite a lot to deal with after such a long day. So we didn’t have GRAB yet, so we were forced to go with the taxi queue to get to our hotel. The taxi didn’t have seat belts and it was really terrible. When it would stop, the car would fill up with smoke and I would choke and cough. It was terrible. After such a long trip, I was done.

Then we had about 6 days in Yangon. It was nice to just slow down and take things easy. I think Luc thought that it was entirely too long to be in one place.

The hotel was nice and the breakfast was pretty good. We started using GRAB to go everywhere and GRAB is just amazing. We don’t have Uber in Victoria, but it’s similar and soooo cheap.

The things we did: walked around the lake that was there, visited a beautiful garden, did a walking tour (on our own) in Yangon, visited a French patisserie, went to a super cold mall (oh the relief!), visited more temples and almost got scammed by a guy who wanted $20/gold leaf that we put on a tree (one for Jaedyn too of course). We ended up giving him $5 as he told us some interesting things as we moved around the temple. I think he was pretty disappointed.

We also took a train that was supposed to take us on a circular route but it was broken somewhere along the track so we could only go out and back. We really got to see some of the poverty stricken parts of Yangon on this train. Also on the train they sold everything you could possibly want.

Something that I wasn’t prepared for was what the locals eat. I thought it was chewing tobacco but it’s something called a Betel Nut Chew. They chew these leaf things that turn their mouth and teeth red. It’s a source of pride for them but for me, it was actually really hard to look at them with these crazy red mouths. At first I thought it was a drug that they put inside the chews, but after doing some research, I realized it makes them feel like they’ve had a couple of cups of coffee.

We ended our stay with an Italian feast at the Italian Embassy. What a thing to find! Food was delicious and so was the wine!

We had one night at a place with a pool before heading back to Thailand.

Reactions:

We had many mixed reactions about us going to Myanmar. Some people were nervous for us while others told us we shouldn’t miss out. We had one person say that they wouldn’t give their tourist money given the recent history of the country. It definitely was the country that I’ve had the most unsettling feeling in. I don’t really need to go back and see Myanmar again.

We decided not to go to the Philippines given some of the unrest that’s happening there.

I think Vivi might have had the hardest time there because everyone seemed to want to touch her and take photos with her and she really doesn’t like being touched by strangers. We have been practicing asking people not to touch her and saying no with the photo taking. This experience has given her a lot of practice telling people not to touch her and by the time she’s grown up she will be very well versed in saying what’s ok and what’s not ok for her.

Click to watch video of our Myanmar Trip
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Southern Thailand

January 9-30, 2019

Relationship Renewal

I’m not going to sugar coat this: it took a while to change my mindset about Switzerland. I haven’t yet posted the raw feelings about what I went through in Switzerland as I’m not ready yet, but what I will say is that I felt like I had some depression surface and it was a very rough time in my relationship with Luc. Because of this, I think Luc might have hoped that a switch was flipped when we hit Thailand. Paradise right? Yeah that didn’t happen.

I remember standing in the airport after a crazy time change with about 1 hour of sleep and 10 hours of flying, Luc saying to me “why are you always so negative?” talk about a trigger moment. I was ready to catch the next flight back to Canada and away from him as fast as I possibly could.

After finally arriving at the first fancy hotel, we had it out beside the pool. What a sight – us basically yelling at each other in the most beautiful place we had seen in a while. Him flabbergasted why I wasn’t finally in a good mood and me yearning for him to just try to understand and accept me but totally being reactive and defensive.

I think those 2 days was so crucial for our relationship to finally try to find our relationship and love again through the crap and bullshit of the past 3 months. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all crap and bullshit. We had an amazing experience while I was emotionally very low. I look back now and wonder how did we experience so many cool things when I really felt depressed, alone and low.

From this point on, we spent time getting to know each other again and new things began to crop up that I didn’t know about Luc and him, me. As I move through our trip I will expose those things as they become more and more apparent. There was an article I read that was really interesting. What I got from it was that long term travel with your partner actually has you get to know things about them that you didn’t know or it wasn’t in your face enough to notice. This is so accurate. Traveling presents many different challenges that you don’t get in every day life: being scared (or not), spending money, eating new foods, experiencing new things, being tired, hot, parenting kids who haven’t been through this experience either. It’s challenging to say the least.

So 2 glorious days at the hotel on points helped us to reform our bonds again and start again just the 3 of us.

Bangkok

After lounging in the pool, we headed to Bangkok to explore. You will hear this for the next 3 months until we get to Bali but Bangkok was my first experience of HOT. We had grand ambitions to do learning time with Vivi in the morning and then set out in the afternoon to explore. WRONG. It’s minuscule cooler in the morning so we learned hard the first day to do it opposite from this point forward.

Everything was scary for me. Tuk tuks, walking on the street, worrying about getting my purse stolen from passing scooters, getting ripped off, street food. I was well outside my comfort zone these first few days (weeks). Luc on the other hand was LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Which killed me. How can one person be so afraid and the other want more of everything. I’ve said it before but we are the epitome of Ying and Yang.

He was ready to sample every single food on the street and I was trying to get back to restaurants for fear of food poisoning. I’ve been sick so many times in the past in Asian countries that I’m jaded. So this was a bone of contention that didn’t stop for about 2 months until I said enough was enough. More on that later.

We went to a few temples in Bangkok, Khao San Road, out to the Amphawa Floating Market and the Maeklong train market (See Luc and Vivi’s C’est La Vie! Video), we did an amazing cooking class (See Luc and Vivi’s C’est La Vie! Video), we hired a boat to take us down the river, and saw the reclining buddha and Wat Pho.

After 4 days in Bangkok I had had my fair share. It’s smelly, noisy and busy. It’s also incredibly unique, different and special. I don’t need to visit Bangkok again.

Koh Tao

We took our first double decker bus to Koh Toa which I think was 12 hours. What an experience of smelly noisiness. Hoped on a boat and met Mossy Mermaid and family! We were introduced to this family from my best friend and mutual friend back home. The MM Fam as 6 kids in total and Vivi was in absolute heaven playing with them and talking in English. It had been a while since she got to play with kids in English.

We made another fail and didn’t do enough research on where we were staying and booked 4 nights in the centre of Koh Toa where you need a taxi to take you anywhere you want to go which is about $12 one way. Or a scooter but we weren’t scooter people yet and I heard learning on Koh Toa was a recipe for disaster. So we would walk to the MM fam daily to hang out with them while Luc and a few of them learned to Scuba dive.

We had a blast swimming, playing in the pool, watching movies and the moms got to do mom things. I got some much needed girl time and empathy from Shelby. It had been so long since I got some face time with another woman. Luc got some much needed guy time with Cam and we even poked fun at their bromance.

Eventually we moved closer to them and we rented a boat and went snorkeling around the island for the morning with them. We forms some close blonds and can’t wait to visit them in Tofino when we get back.

Ao Nang

We took another all day bus to the other side of Southern Thailand. We debated if we wanted to stay at Railay Beach, Krabi or Ao Nang and in the end Ao Nang won due to price. I quite liked this place. It’s like a seaside town with a beach vibe. Very touristy. Here you can buy a ticket to Railay Beach for the day which is what we did.

But first we booked a Kayak and explored with a guide through the mangrove trees and watched monkeys watching us. Of course no double kayaking trip is complete without me and Luc yelling at each other. We never learn to not get doubles.

The next day we spent a day at Railay Beach. White sandy beaches, beautiful Karsts, and PEOPLE. It was hot, busy and a lot of people. I’m sure glad we went to see it as it was beautiful walking around and witnessing the penis shrines (you read that right) – and one day is enough for me.

Koh Lanta

After that we headed to the island of Koh Lanta. We booked this place beside the beach with a great pool! The room itself presented some cockroaches, a lizard, and a massive wasp in our bathroom. The thing that was AMAZING about Koh Lanta was meeting some French people with some kids around the same age as Vivi that we became fast friends with. We ate dinner together and played in the pool.

We had our first experience of Trash Hero. Trash Hero is an organization around the world that organizes beach and city cleanups by volunteers. We decided to walk to the beach for the clean-up but gave up about half way as it was way too hot! Us and the French hitchhiked (they had done it before on Koh Lanta) to the beach and then we had a lovely lunch. Then we got down and dirty and started the clean-up. It’s incredible how much garbage was hiding in the foliage of the beach. Vivi got some motor oil on her but I had my DoTerra Essential Oils so doused her with lemon and watched it cut the grease easy peasy.

We also paid for a crappy experience which should have been a lot better than it was but because of the waves, it was tragic. We were supposed to boat out to 3 different snorkeling places. In the end we went to 2 and they were basically in the exact same spot. I think we got forgotten for pickup because after calling someone got us and when we got on the boat everyone was already on board. They had all been given seasick pills too but they neglected to give them to us. Because we were last, we had to sit at the very back and I got soaked from the waves splashing in and on me. People started puking. I ended up putting on my mask because the salt water was killing my eyes. On the way back it was worse and took even longer to get back. It was one of those moments when you wonder if these might be the last people you see in your life.

We said goodbye to our new friends after about 6 days on Koh Lanta to head back to Krabi by bus for one night before taking off to Myanmar.

I loved the southern side of Thailand because of the ocean. I would come back here in a heartbeat and spend more time on the islands exploring. We made some great friends during this time that I’m really grateful for. I feel like this was a time that we were getting our traveling legs, reuniting as a family, discovering what was scary and trying to deal with the heat. We were newbies during this time in our travels for sure.

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Interview with Vivi: Swiss School

I interview Vivi about her after thoughts of going to school in Switzerland (Luc’s actual school!).

  1. Before you started school in Switzerland, do you remember what you thought or felt about going to school there?
    That’s a hard question. I was scared to not make any new friends. Cuz they would all laugh about my accent.
    And how did it work out? It worked out fine actually, I made a lot of new friends.
  2. What was your first impressions of Swiss school?
    I don’t know. That’s a hard question again. This was a lot more different then I thought it was going to be. In what way? Some things that I didn’t know what they meant in French, I’m like, Ok I think that’s what she’s saying, but I don’t know… Is she saying that or is she saying that? Cuz I don’t know which one. I was a little bit confused. It was more at the beginning.
  3. How did you feel in the beginning?
    Scared. Was there anything that helped you not be scared?  Getting used to it, going every day. What helped you? Somebody explained to me everything. A friend. Avril. Merci Avril. Would you say you were outside your comfort zone?  Yes at the beginning. But then it became the new normal. It was kinda like school in Canada but in French and in a different country – when I was done. Did anybody laugh at your accent? I think a couple did but then they got used to it. I forget.
  4. What was the most fun thing?
    Going to the train to go to the pool, the gym, I love the train and that’s it.
  5. What was the thing you liked to do the most in school?
    Everything that I just said. Ummm… ACM -> where you do crafts, stuff for other people too, when it was Halloween, we made little baskets with skulls on them, I filled it up with candy and give it to someone. Did you like singing? When did I sing? Yeah, I like singing… but I didn’t need to do it in front of the whole class.
  6. What was the thing you liked to do the least?
    Math, and we all had different things to do everyday – so every week we had to change so once I was sweeping and once I was mopping and once I was cleaning tables and I don’t like doing that. Do you do that in Canada? No…. uh a little bit – I forget. What about dictee? No, cuz I only got for 5 months I only got 2 times right.
  7. What is something that is your favorite memory?
    My birthday cuz they all did a parade and said Canada! Canada! Canada! And some people’s birthday and also the train to go to the pool and the pool and the gym and yeah.
    What was it like staying for lunch some days at school?
    The first day was really scary because I didn’t get what was happening. My best friend explained what was happening, she went there last year and she helped me and so that helped a lot. What happens there? You get picked up when you get out of your class, then he collects all the people, and you go to a different room near the gym, you wash your hands, you go to a table that you want, he says “anybody that wants to serve your table?” and you have to put your hand up and you all have to agree. Your table all has to agree what person. And then all of the people who want to collect the  food, and then they go in line to collect the food, and the adults put the food on the plate and then you serve it to your table. What kinds of foods did you eat? Burgers. Once we ate taco, and we ate a whole bunch of other foods [like vegetables, and soup, and fruit] and we always have fruit for desert in Switzerland. When you’re done you brush your teeth and you have your name on a tooth brush and you have a special place to put your goblet and tooth brush on a shelf. They gave us the toothbrush but you have to get it.
  8. Did you learn new games you can teach your friends ?
    Yeah, I forget what they are called but I learned card games, outside games, inside games – there’s a lot of games.
  9. What was your teacher like? 
    Her name is Madame Amandine and she was really nice. She really, oh man I forget, [you told me that she was really nice to, and that she really helped you feel a part of the class and explained things to you as you were new to the class, and with cursive writing, everyone was a year ahead and she really helped you with that but you also told me she was strict and no nonsense.] Yes all of that but only a little bit strict.
  10. What are some of the differences between Swiss school and Canadian school?
    They don’t speak French that much in Canada. Usually the kids just talk in English at recess. But it was really different because sometimes I said words in English, and they copied it but really with a French accent.
  11. What difference would you bring back to Canada if you could?
    I don’t know. What was some of the things that you really liked in Switzerland and wish you had in Canada. Swimming and eating [the canteen, a hot lunch every day], ACM [crafts], sometimes you go in a bus and you go to a place, so I was group “boat”, let’s say, and sometimes I need to go over to another school. I made a pouch for pencil crayons and stuff like that and I made it all by hand and I choose my own colours and my own buttons for the eyes and different stuff like that. And also sometimes I go to a different school and sometimes the one go to a different school. We made a basket for Halloween. It was really cool ACM. So you didn’t do that in Canada? No. You have different tools? Yeah, a cursive pen – ink pen. When you do crafts in Canada, what’s the difference? I don’t know. I forget.
  12. Which school do you like better?
    I like both. 😀
  13. Are you better at speaking and reading in French now?
    Yeah! Yeah.
  14. Would you go back again?
    That’s a hard question because I miss Canada right now, but if I lived in Switzerland, yeah.
  15. If you had a friend that was in Canada and going to Swiss school and that was a bit worried what would you tell them?
    The first time I went there it was a little scary, but once I got used to it it was really fun!

Thanks so much Vivi! Super appreciate you answering all my questions. Your welcome!

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Jaedyn comes to visit!

December 24, 2018 to January 8th, 2019

It was like Christmas when Jaedyn came to visit. It actually was Christmas eve when she arrived. Vivi and I were so looking forward to her coming. She has this joyous disposition to her and she’s my little girl and Vivi’s big sister.

We hadn’t seen her since we said good bye to her in New York about 5.5 months before. Of course she was tired from such a long flight(s) and it took a good couple of days for her to get over her jet lag.

Christmas is magical in Switzerland. We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with her, Vivi, Luc, Guy, Camille, Elise, Moreno and his mother Gabriella. They lit up the Christmas tree with real candles and we played a lot of games and ate a lot of food. Gabriella and Moreno are Italian so we had some exquisite Lasagna and (desert???).

The next morning we loaded up and drove to Morzine, France to an Airbnb chalet that we had rented for 6 days all together. But before we got there, we stopped in Evian to visit quickly, buy some mussels???, and fill our water bottles up with free pure Evian water – the stuff you buy at the grocery store. It just easier comes out of the wall in Evian.

Sadly, there wasn’t any snow in the ski village of Morzine and the mountain snow was kinda shit (from what I understand). Some people went skiing and boarding while the rest of us explored the town. Vivi and Jaedyn also went skating at the outdoor skating rink, and we drank some more hot mulled wine.

Every night was a feast. We all took turns cooking and we didn’t scrimp at all on the meals.

One day some of us walked around the ski mountain on the trails and we all met up for lunch. Another day Gabriella, Luc, Vivi, Jaedyn and myself walked around a frozen lake that reminded me of Durrance Lake in the winter time.

On New Years Eve day, Jaedyn, myself and Vivi decided we wanted to stay home and it’s a good thing we did. Violette started puking at about 9am and didn’t stop until that evening. She spent New Years on the couch – poor thing. We rung in the New Year all together.

We left the next day and our family headed to Lauren and Francois’ house to spend some time just the 4 of us together before we separated again. It was wonderful. Lauren and family were up the mountain and said we could crash at their place to have some alone time.

While we were there, we went to Lausanne one more time. I also caught what Vivi had but was sick for much longer. And of course, Jaedyn wanted to go to Vevey and Pizza Taxi for a walk down memory lane (as I did) so the three girls did that while Luc went and played up the mountain with his friends. It was fun remembering what things were like 8 years before. Of course Vivi didn’t remember but Jaedyn remembered it fondly so it was nice to share these moments with her.

We also celebrated Vivi’s actual birthday with some family members over lunch. Again it was so awesome that Jaedyn could be there for that special day as she is used to spending her birthday with friends and family from Canada.

I loved that she came. It was the best gift I could have received. She provided so much emotional support for me and much needed empathy. For Vivi, she was so thrilled to get to spend time with Jaedyn and have fun with her. Vivi is happiest when all the family is together, so I think this really helped her to not miss Canada quite as much.

We booked a flight for Jaedyn to leave the day before we left so we could see her off to the airport. It was hard, as anticipated, to say goodbye again to Jaedyn knowing we wouldn’t see her for another 6 months. I miss her terribly (I’m writing this 3 months after we said goodbye to her).

The day before dropping her off, we spent hours and hours organizing what we were bringing travelling. We also left some stuff behind in Switzerland and we sent a piece of luggage with Jaedyn. We had too much stuff so we also have to ship a box back to Canada as well which we dropped off in France (because it’s cheaper) after dropping Jaedyn off at the airport. This was much more complicated than you would imagine. In the end we also had a donation bag as well. But we got it all organized and packed. I brought entirely too much stuff with me for the second half of the trip but figured it was mostly stuff I could leave behind and part with if need be. Turns out I actually sent a box home from Thailand and another box with some of our souvenirs from Vietnam.

We said goodbye to Luc’s parents and thank them so much for everything they have done for us these past 5 months. Thank you for letting us stay with you and in your studio. Thank you for the wonderful meals. Thank you for looking after Violette while Luc was on the Camino with me. Thank you for letting us use your car and driving us all over Switzerland. Thank you for your incredible hospitality and generosity. I’m so happy that Vivi could spend these months getting to know you both and that Luc had a chance to connect again with you both.

This concludes this portion of the European trip. We move to South East Asia in my next blog post. Check this map to see where we’ve been and where we’re going.

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