05 September 2008

A brightly colored ball pit

What a day! Half way across the city, the protests continue and a few Skytrain stops away from our home, my son was wrestled and choked, in a brightly colored ball pit, by a non-English speaking three year old.

The day started off a bit rocky. I've been using a taxi service in the last couple of days so that we can avoid the walk to the Skytrain when desired. The walk itself is a great way to get to know the neighborhood and a fun way to interact with people, but with two little ones in tow, sometimes I grow a bit tired of hearing how the walk is giving them blisters (only a few!), or how much sweat is pouring off their head (mine too!), or "why can't we stop and ask that person's name?" (we've already done that to the same person for three days in a row!). If you've ever had a young child, you probably get it.... sometimes you're just too tired! 

Which brings me back to calling the taxi service. I thought we were all set for a 9:30 a.m. departure. Our security guard called a little early, saying the cab company would arrive at 9 instead. So, I rushed through morning preparations (Who needs breakfast? We'll just stop at Starbucks.) and took everyone to our security station downstairs to wait. The kids and I perched ourselves on a step and enjoyed a few moments with our house dog, "Carrot". Then, I started to smell diesel, heard a clank clank clank along with really aggressive clucking sounds. A huge cloud of smoke rolls by slowly and just a door away an oversize pick-up truck carrying cages full of squawking chickens is stuck in a perpendicular fashion to the road.

With the utmost patience, neighbors were helping the driver to slowly inch his way in the right direction. All the while, a loudspeaker perched on the top of the truck was blaring a repetitive recording which I have to assume told us that the chickens were for sale. Our security guard enjoyed sharing the commotion with the kids.

While the great chicken catastrophe is still in progress, our very nice neighbor approached me to say that the cab company called and they won't be sending a taxi. Apparently, all call-in driving services are being paid to join the protest and are shut down until further notice. So, we all piled into her car, waited for the chicken truck to move on (and it finally did) and she took us to the Skytrain station. (My emotional state at 9:30 a.m.: hey, no problem, we got to the Skytrain sweat- and complaint-free. And, the kids got some free entertainment... the chickens were enough to talk about for the entire train ride.)

After going to Starbucks (aka breakfast today), we wandered a mega shopping complex in search a play area for the kids. I had read that one existed and today seemed like an easy day to try to find it. After a bit of exploration, tucked in the back corner of one of the mega shopping complex's mega department stores, we found a mega surprise: Jamboreeland! Think Chuck-e-Cheese meets Disneyland's It's a Small World ride tucked into a corner of an otherwise calm and serene shopping experience. Pint-sized techno music blared (over and over and over again), tiny baht-operated spaceships blinked and flashed hoping to entice a mini pilot, four foot tall air hockey tables awaited their next game and a painting studio of sorts sat quiet and empty as little kids raced from automated adventure to automated adventure. 

But, it was the massive soft playground, filled with plastic balls that caught our eyes today. For 50 baht per child (a little over a dollar), the kids could enter into the area contained by nets and staffed by a friendly attendant to play on the slides and bridges and jump in the balls for a half hour. Everyone entering had to wear socks, which they provided for kids who didn't have any, but not for parents. Which, in my sandal clad feet, left me standing on the outside of the nets. All went well for the first ten minutes. (My emotional state at 10:45 a.m.: Bravo!!! You did it... you found a super cool new activity for the kids!)

Then came psycho kid, a true terror that I have never seen the likes of before (and hope to never again.  Now, I know that kids have bad days too and I also understand that no matter where you live there's the opportunity for a kid to take his bad day out on yours. But, this little pint-sized bully had it out for anyone who crossed his path and he took a "liking" to my son. Upon first approach, F thought the bigger kid was just playing. F's face said, "Ha, he's throwing balls at me." Then, it escalated. Without going into too great of detail, the balls flew, a choke hold was placed, I started hysterics that parents everywhere recognize, my daughter raced through the balls to help her brother and the play attendant peeled the other kid off my son. 

The "other kid" stayed as his caretaker quietly read a magazine. We left, immediately. (My emotional state at 11 a.m.: unfit for the audience that may read this blog.)

We finished the morning, limbs intact, by going to a wonderful Japanese restaurant for lunch, both kids falling asleep on the Skytrain (and me having to wake them up), catching a non-protesting cab home, tucking everyone in for naps and experiencing one of this season's gargantuan rain storms. Thunder cracked for the second day in a row and woke the kids up after 15 minutes of sleeping in their beds at home. (My emotional state at 4 p.m.: you can probably guess.)

With T working late and the rest of the family exhausted, I'll be reaching for my tried and true recipe: the one that fed my family during our very early weeks in Thailand and the one that I've looked to throughout the years previous when I needed a fast breakfast, lunch or dinner that everyone would eat. As a gift to anyone who may have had a day like mine, please enjoy my mom's fried rice.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 9:
Mom's Fried Rice
This is the one recipe, in addition to plain rice, that kept us going during the first two weeks of life in Bangkok. Thank goodness for the cooking school of mom that began early and has continued on. How funny to be halfway around the globe, have a culturally relevant recipe, and something that reminds me of my childhood!

2 cups of cooked rice, white or brown
1 tablespoon veggie oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
optional: assorted veggies, cut into small pieces (carrots, celery, broccoli and/or your other local favorites)
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons (or so) of soy sauce
green onions and bean sprouts, chopped
pepper, to taste

Place veggie oil and onion in a saute pan over medium heat. If using additional veggies of choice, add those too, and cook until tender. Move to the side of the pan and carefully pour the beaten egg into empty side. Scramble until hard and then mix with the veggies. Then, add the rice stirring over medium heat until well combined. Slowly add soy sauce until rice is light brown. Add a few grinds of pepper. Taste to make sure it is seasoned in a way pleasing to your palette. Add more soy sauce and/or pepper as needed. Continue to cook until rice becomes dry (about 3-5 minutes). Serve hot. (Also good reheated for breakfast the next morning!)

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