work party

Even though no one else in this entire town celebrates any holidays on the 25th, our workplace has a staff lunch party. So, after our own little festivities at home, we bundled up and headed out to join our coworkers.

They even made turkey in the pizza oven!

We enjoyed time with our new friends around some good food.

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a simple season

This was our first holiday season without any family or close friends to celebrate with. While Ryan and I would’ve rather just skipped it altogether this year, we thought we should make it special for the girls. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to excite them.

So, we got out our little box of decorations, and put up our 1 foot tree.

Talia tried her hand at making paper snowflakes.

The best gift, besides internet, were these down comforters we bought ourselves. Some friends sent them over for us from our old city. We’re sleeping good now!

We brained stormed a few treats we could make without an oven.

After briefly attempting to shape our oatmeal no bakes, we instead opted to decorate them.

I think more sprinkles went in Elise’s mouth than on the cookies.

We picked up a few special foods on our last visa run to round out our special hors d’oeuvre dinner.

The girls are wearing the footie pj’s we happened to see for sale on the sidewalk during our visa run. They weren’t quite the right sizes, but they work great! Can you believe they’re all the way from Target?

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Thank you to the friends and family who sent packages to make our day special, even including decorations to add to our tiny stash. In the end, even though we really missed having someone to celebrate with, we did make some special memories as a family.

guess what?

After two months of waiting, guess who showed up at our gate a few days ago?

The internet company!! Wohooo!

It was quite the suspenseful two months, being told they were coming “next week for sure” or “in a couple days” every time we investigated.

We are so happy to be able to connect with the outside world again through regular emails and Skype calls, too. What a great Christmas gift!

I learned a few things while being offline for two months:
-Life does go on and you can function without the internet
-You go to bed earlier
-You read more books
-But, you really do miss being connected to friends and family

baby, it’s cold inside

The biggest challenge we’ve faced here has not been the lack of indoor sinks, or the fact that the kitchen is outside. It’s been the cold. We thought it would be so nice to get to wear a sweatshirt after a few years of sweating it out in SE Asia, but we were completely unprepared for how cold it would get. We’re doing our best to keep ourselves warm, but it hasn’t been easy, and it keeps getting colder. I often daydream about having Eskimo friends to borrow some furs from, and Ryan says he is envious of the tourists who come into the shop decked out in their North Face winter gear. How did we miss the memo on this weather?

So, you know you weren’t ready for the cold when you….

…have to lend your sweatshirt to your daughter, because her only one got spilled on.

…try your best to make homemade hot chocolate to warm up the kids

…put bed building on the top of the todo list to get the mattresses off the cold tile floor

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….have family cuddle sessions in bed in the middle of the afternoon

…joke about putting hot water bottles in your sweatshirt

…and then actually do it… on a daily basis!

…find any reason to put a blanket on the kids

… warm yourself up by the burner at 4:30am after the kids wake up because they are too cold

…drink a liter of tea in the morning by yourself

…buy some fashionable one-size-fits-alll sweatsuits at the Chinese market in hopes the girls will stay warm in bed

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…wear gloves to breakfast

…buy the craziest looking fleece patchwork quilt at the market in hopes of not waking up in the middle of the night freezing

…take pictures of the thermometer because you can’t believe how cold it is

…open your Christmas package early because you think Nana sent slippers

Somehow, these pictures make it look like being cold is loads of fun. It really has been quite difficult. If we could find a wood burning stove or space heater, we’d buy it in a heartbeat! We’re hoping for some warmer days soon.


Our house is somewhat surrounded by a small community. I have yet to find out if they’re all related or not. We wandered down the path towards their houses the week after we arrived and met some nice people. Since then, we’ve made a regular point to go visit. Often, this means hanging around their fire with them on a cold cold day. The girls have quickly come to love our new friends. We look forward to getting to know them better and being able to communicate more.

visa run #1

After 4 weeks, here, it was time to cross the border to renew our visa for another 30 days while our work visas are still being processed. Though we didn’t look forward to the long journey there and back, we did have a long shopping list for things to buy which are not available in our little town.

There are no pictures of the long windy road through the mountains to the border, because all my energy was spent trying to keep my girl’s eye on the road so that she wouldn’t get sick.

Talia enjoying her own bench on the second bus ride after crossing the border.

We arrived at our hotel and were so excited to see we had mail waiting for us! Some warm clothes from sweet friends and family!

The girls were pretty excited about new, warm pjs.

First stop on our shop-a-thon: the hardware store (similar to Home Depot). It had just opened 2 days prior to our arrival! We were stoked!

We did make time for a coffee break, especially since our hotel only had instant. The girls shared a fresh coconut.

Four people, 3 grocery bags and a backpackful on a scooter? No problem.

Last item on the list was a bike for Ryan. That is our only mode of transport for now. The girls enjoyed watching the clean up and tune up.

Bussing it back to the border.

Tuktuk down to the river.

Heading towards home. Just one more windy bus ride to go. (No, the TV is not ours.)

new job

Two days after we arrived at our new home, Ryan started working. His first month was mostly spent learning the ropes of the eco-tourism company by working in the “shop”, which is both a restaurant and trekking agency. He’s also become the company handyman and has helped do a lot of small odd jobs as well as build a new door for the pizza oven. It was a busy month, but he’s enjoyed learning a new role as well as interacting with the local employees. The girls and I like to stop in for a mid-morning break to have fruit and a coffee, see Daddy, and get to know the coworkers. It’s nice that the shop is only a few blocks from home. (Really, anything in our town is only a few blocks from home!)

Ryan helping two foreign girls choose the right trek for them

This is the place to get the best coffee in town…

or a fresh squeezed carrot juice.

Satisfied customers

The new pizza oven door

Happy 30th

I got the day off work so we could make something special of the big day. With all the moving and setting up I didn’t put much time into preparing ahead for her birthday. However, after all the busyness I thought that just spending the day hanging out together with the four of us would be special enough.

After our first breakfast Talia and I hit up the market for gifts for Mommy. We managed to get a nice basket and a beautiful purple headband with sparkles. It was great to have Talia along because she and Melissa have similar tastes.

After gift time, we went to the top rated restaurant in town for a mid-morning brunch. Check out that beautiful looking fruit salad.

Then, after the girls naps, we picked up a picnic lunch at the market, which included sticky rice, of course. We rented a motorcycle and headed out to enjoy the sunset at a little hut in the middle of the rice fields that had been recommended to us.

We got there just in time to enjoy our meal and the beautiful scenery. The sun was beginning to set over the rice fields, which are just ready for harvesting.

Whoever took this photo is a pretty lucky dude to be on a rice field date with three such beautiful ladies.

Some of the girls at the restaurant made Melissa a gluten-free chocolate and banana cake. So, we stopped in there for the finale to the day. To Talia and Elise a birthday is not a birthday unless there is a cake, candles and singing.

Welcome to decade number four, Melissa! I’m so happy to be doing life together with you.

new house: adapting

After 3 days, the sun finally came out and we had also made some progress on the house.

Ryan fixed the old twin tub washing machine that had been neglected for a couple of years and we cleaned all the spiders and scum out as best as we could.

With the sun shining, the laundry was finally able to dry.

Fashion goes out the window when you’re cold! We found some $3 fleeces at the market to help keep the girls warm. The sleeves were slightly different lengths, and some of the pockets were sewn shut, but they worked.

We haven’t had a yard in over 2 years, so the girls have loved rediscovering nature. Here they are, sitting on their little bench watching Mr. Snail.

We decided to bring part of the kitchen indoors, so we cleaned out all the spiders and dirt from this old desk that was in the outside kitchen.

Ryan fixed the drawers and bought some tiles to put on top.

It’s the beginning of an indoor kitchen! We use a plastic basket to transport the dishes back and forth to be washed.

We came up with a temporary sink solution. Still not quite working. The bathroom floor is wet all day which is tough when you’re taking littles ones in their socks to the bathroom. We’re already trying some other things.

We went out looking for some local shelving and storage options.

There’s a ton more to do, but things are looking much better than they did a week ago.

new house: first impressions

We pulled up to our new home, and it looked great. We had seen pictures, and thought that it was move in ready.

However, there was a bit of work to do.

First things first, we setup the girls’ room as soon as we arrived, so that they could sleep in somewhat familiar surroundings. We decided to bring their bedding, rug and curtains and even a few wall hangings to help it feel like home.

The second morning, our place looked like this. We’re so glad we made a last minute decision to bring the kitchen table.

We were shocked by how cold the nights and mornings were. I dressed the girls in every piece of warm clothing they owned.

We thought they house would be clean as there had been others living in it, but unfortunately, there was a lot to do. Above is a gecko skeleton in one of the door jams. There were hundreds of spiders, cobwebs and ants everywhere.

Another surprise – no sinks in the house! The bathroom faucet runs onto the floor.

Another challenge was not having a kitchen inside the house. I had been told it wasn’t connected to the house, but I guess I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to see into the house or hear the girls from the kitchen.

Opening the kitchen cabinets for the first time was a bit scary. The kitchen is not sealed at all (see the gap between the wall and roof?), so it was a refuge for many bugs. It didn’t appear to have been used much in the past few years.

So, we were a bit surprised, overwhelmed, and cold, especially when the sun didn’t shine and it rained for the first 3 days. Ryan kept encouraging me that we’d make it work and things would seem better soon. So we got to work cleaning and making some adaptations. More tomorrow.