8

Expertise

A couple of months ago, The Bean came home from school with an assignment to list 3 things she is an Expert in.  Ultimately, she would be required to write an essay informing her audience about her expertise.  Not surprisingly, she couldn’t come up with anything.  Seriously.  She’s seven.  In my estimation, the only thing a 7-year-old could qualify as an Expert in, would be “How to talk Mom into giving me dessert” or “How to stay up past bedtime”.

As I read further into the assignment, I understood that she was meant to be able to teach someone how to do whatever it is she decided she is an Expert in.  Which got me thinking…what would I write that essay on?

My first thought was parenting.  But, no.  There are loads of real Experts out there-and as I can honestly attest, they have all written (conflicting) books about How to Be A Perfect Parent.  I have no business writing any such book.  I would be better qualified to write a “What Not To Do” type book.

Then I thought, “Expat Life”!  Only, the truth is, most of my friends have lived more places, speak more languages, incorporate themselves into more cultures, and are much more qualified as Expert.  By default, I’m pretty good at moving and figuring out how to make a life work for my family-but I’m not an expert.  I’m just good at keeping us comfortable.

So…maybe I’m thinking too grand-scale?  What am I an Expert in on a small-scale?  I’m a good Girl Scout Leader!  But, the truth is, I don’t really follow the rulebook and since I’ve never been a leader in the USA-I’ve never had to manage the sale of a single Cookie.  I’m pretty sure that’s the hard part. So, that’s out.  I’m a good cook!  Only I haven’t really had to cook in the five years we’ve been in Asia and had a helper.  So I couldn’t really speak to that.

Okay…back up.  What do I love to do?

  1. Boot Camp!  That’s out because I’m not certified and even though I work out at least 5 days/week, and I’ve probably had a half-dozen personal trainers in my life…and I’ve definitely taken every single class available to me here in Bubble Town…I’m not an Expert anybody would pay for my expertise.  Rather, they’d workout beside me because I’m self-deprecating and I love good competition.
  2. Eat & Drink!  Yes-for sure.  I’m an expert in this..but I’m not a true foodie.  I’m not passionate enough about the details.  I like food.  I have a particular fondness for White Trash food.  I also love sushi and all types of ethnic treasures.  I love a 5-course gastronomic journey with wine pairings..but I also love Chipotle.  Nobody is going to pay to learn about that kind of schizoprenia.
  3. Run!  But I suck at it-I really just do it to keep the crazy at bay.  I have no advice to give.
  4. Shopping!!  Yes, but no.  I’m no good with somebody else’s taste.  I want to be on What Not to Wear.  Not for me-to force my esthetic on everybody else.  So, nobody’s going to hire me to do that.  And I really don’t want a budget.  So…that’s out.
  5. Read!  What am I going to do?  Review all the books I read?  But that takes time away from my reading.  And much like my food, I have a varied diet when it comes to reading.  I like absolute garbage with my classics and genuine literature.  That’s out, too.

OMG.  I’m not an expert in anything.

Full stop.

So, then I get to thinking…I have a friend that is seriously a genius.  Well, I’m not sure what her IQ is, technically, but I’d wager it’s really high.  What she is, folks, is an Expert.  In everything.  She’s both creative and skilled.  She’s clever and unafraid to get her hands dirty.  She’s just really good at everything.  She knows how to sew her own muck-a-lucks.  That’s really a thing!  There has been an assertion that I forced her to be my friend by stalking her and just showing up at her house (confirmed).  And it occurs to me that I probably stalked her because she is everything I am not.  We are currently in charge of Costumes for the ES Musical for the second year in a row.  I completely hoodwinked her into “helping” me last year, and I have learned a lot from hanging out with her.  I’m too lazy to really learn her skills-but she lets me be her assistant and I’m wicked good at wielding her glue-gun and making spreadsheets to accompany her genius designs.  I like to think that if I spend enough time with her, basking in her aura, some of that will rub off on me.

When I’m being honest, if I go back through my closest friends over the past few years…they are all brilliant in some way that I most definitely am not.  My closest friend who moved away last year was an Expert in decision-making.  Literally, companies hire her to help them make decisions.  She helps them to weigh options and help make intelligent choices.  I am many things-but I am not en expert at keeping emotions calm and making sound decisions.  I’m ever-so-slightly high strung.  Maybe she tolerated me because it gave her a project?

Before that,  my closest friend was a Speech Pathologist.  She understands things about biology and human development and childhood development that I still don’t even remotely get.  I can’t even pronounce the things she helps kids work through.  Oh, and she managed to keep her career going WHILE being an expat trailing spouse.  That is no small task.  I never even managed a single work permit.

I could keep going and going but one thing is clear-I choose people who are much more interesting than I am to spend my time with.  One would speculate that I might be motivated to go back to school, or more thoroughly pursue getting a certification or an advanced degree in something.  Or maybe I could actually learn how to operate the sewing machine so that I didn’t have to burn the crap out of my fingers with the glue-gun.  But, no.  The truth is…I’m not moved to do any of those things.  I really and truly enjoy people who are Better than me.  I admit it sometimes is a little bit hero-worship.  I’m amazed by my friends’ brains.  And their capabilities.  And their kindness and tolerance.  Yes, the tolerance is key.  Because, seriously-how annoying must the-friend-that-can’t-do-anything-well be??

I think my goal will to become an Expert in keeping these incredible people in my life.

3

18 Days without Facebook

Apparently, I was very “present” on Facebook.  This has become clear to me through the sheer number of nearly-condolence-filled queries I have received both in person and on email and text as to “how I am holding up” without Facebook.

Weirdly, I do not miss Facebook.  Not really.

But perhaps more weirdly, I have not had any magic epiphany or renewed sense of self or self-worth that I’ve read about others experiencing when they wean themselves off their social media addictions.

Here’s what I have noticed.

THE GOOD

  • The time that I am not wasting on Facebook has been spent connecting with people, writing, organizing, exercising, and reading (sort of…it’s possible I just walk from one room to the next in the house wondering what I came into that room for in the first place…but that’s another post for another day).
  • I used to find myself occasionally irritated or annoyed by the posts other people put on Facebook.  I knew it was stupid for me to react at all, but I couldn’t help it. The Husband used to call Facebook “The World’s Most Annoying Christmas Card-EVERY SINGLE DAY”.  Which is kind of true-but I love getting Christmas Cards-even from people like the Holderness Family who are clearly perfect and make you feel bad about yourself.  Then I felt bad for being judgmental or for allowing myself to care.  Vicious circle of negative emotions-avoided completely by not logging in.
  • No temptation to spend money for Lollypop Hammers or any other such nonsense while playing Candy Crush or any other painfully tempting Facebook Games.  Curses to the developers of those games-they seriously are addicting.
  • The sense of power I have knowing that I wasn’t truly addicted to Facebook.  I often wondered if I could even do it.  Facebook has sent me at least one “reminder” email each week, telling me I have 300 missed notifications or that I missed photos from a friend…but I wasn’t even tempted to check.  I like feeling in control of myself.  Since I can’t seem to manage my little Milk Duds problem, I’ll take the little wins where I can get them.  And since I have to import Milk Duds and the stash is seriously deteriorating, that problem will shortly take care of itself, too.

THE BAD

  • The truth is that the reason I joined Facebook in the first place was that when we were living in Switzerland, it was really hard to feel connected to our family and friends back in the USA. Bookworm was just a baby, and I wanted both for our family to not lose their sense of connection to us and to her…but also to feel connected to them.  Our first couple of years abroad I maintained a website that took a ton of work to keep up to date. Facebook allowed me to just post and interact.  Over time, obviously, my relationship with Facebook waxed and waned.  I both loved it and hated it.  But I really did never have to wonder if we were still present in the minds and hearts of our family and friends-I could see their “Likes”!   After The Bean was born-I posted monthly photo albums and regular updates on our comings and goings.  I’ve switched to much less frequent posts in the last year, and it’s more like a photo or two per week…not albums that are organized and dated with clever captions.  But I felt present.  Without that tether, I do wonder if we will fade from the minds of those we miss the most.  I hope that our Instagram Photos will keep people up to date on our comings and goings-but I also wonder if I haven’t just given others an additional time-sucking diversion instead of what I was aiming for myself?
  • In the little ExPat Bubble Community where we live, there are two “billboard” groups on Facebook that cropped up in the last year or so.  One is just news and information and the other is a yard sale group.  In truth-both boards were fodder for many laughs and moments of feeling mean and judgmental about the “Duh” and “WTF” people actually sent out into the universe on internet boards.  But, those boards also let you know what’s going on.  Not seeing those boards makes me feel like I’m living in a parallel universe to the rest of my friends here.  And seriously-how will I sell the half-bottle of ketchup in my refrigerator when it’s time for us to move if I can’t post it??
  • My Bootcamp and Book Club also have FB group pages where you find out where to meet and what is going on.  Obviously, I’m clueless.  If Bootcamp changes location-some kind soul has to send me a text or an email.  So, I’m kind of a pain in the butt.  (But it makes me know that they were thinking of me, so that’s a bonus!)  I’m supposed to be the leader of my Book Club.  We don’t even have a January Book or meeting date because I’m not online.
  • I miss funny memes.  Seriously-I want The Holderness family to invite me over for a Pajama Jammy Jam and how is that ever going to happen if I can’t see their latest video creation??  I know, I can find them by searching but that kind of defeats the purpose of quitting my time-sucking habits.
  • I miss the photos and the funny status updates of those I miss the most.  I’ve forced the people I love to join instagram so they can see ME and my family…but that doesn’t mean that they have started to use instagram.  So, I’m feeling a sense of longing for their faces that I haven’t experienced in at least 5 years.
  • In the 7 years since I joined Facebook, we have moved from Switzerland to Hong Kong to Thailand.  I’ve made dear friends that I have stayed connected to because of Facebook…and I’m concerned about how the ties that bind will fray without the Facebook tether to keep us in each others’ lives.  I promised myself I would send personal emails in the time I’m not wasting…but so far I’ve only managed two of them.  I think I need to add that to my to-do list.  Anybody have The Holderness Family’s email address?

You know how there are those little blinky countdown buttons on chatboards and pinterest?  Like, “I’ve saved $1,962 in the 20 days since I quit smoking”?  I need one that says, “I’ve gained x hours of my life back since I quit Facebooking”.  By my estimation, it’s at least two hours per day.  So, to date, I’ve gained 36 hours of my life back.  Not bad for a little under 3 weeks, right?  If only I could be more productive in those hours-or at least quit sneaking Milk Duds.

12

Making Friends

The start of a new term at an international school is almost like the start of a new school year in most conventional schools.  Many companies make strategic staff changes at the end of the fiscal year-meaning that most families elect to split for a couple of months and move the family at the mid-year point instead of living apart for the better part of a year.  Mid-year moves are hard-because class routines are already established and for the most part, even the kids that were “new” at the beginning of the year have settled in and know where they fit in.  It’s also hard for trailing spouses to get the lay of the land and figure out a routine with a mid-year move.  When we moved to Hong Kong five years ago, Bookworm was only starting Kindergarten, but I remember feeling completely out of sync.  Just like the kids-I had to learn the geography of the school, the lingo, the routine, the bus schedule and somehow try to navigate making friends.  I really sucked at it.  I kept winding up at playdates with my kids’ friends’ nannies.

A number of my friends moved away this year at the mid-year point.  When I go about my routine, the smiling faces that have sustained me for the first 3.5 years I’ve been here in Thailand are just not here.  The tables at Starbucks after the 7:30am workout classes used to be packed, and loud, and raucous.  Now, they are devoid of faces I recognize.  I’m not sure what my major malfunction is…but I cannot seem to make myself engage with new people.  I know I should, but it just seems like too much effort.

Both of the girls had classmates move away at the end of the first term and both have new students joining their classes for the second term.  Circus Dad and I have always impressed upon the girls how important it is to BE the smiling face that welcomes the new student.  To remember how awkward it is to join a class that already has a rhythm and a routine.  To extend an invitation to sit with a group at lunch, or join a game on recess, or have a reading buddy, or be part of a math game.  We actually MAKE the girls befriend the new kids.  Honestly, I really think that kids that move frequently (and even kids that don’t move a lot but who attend International Schools with a highly mobile population) are more sensitive to making an effort to include new kids. The truth is-they have ALL been the new kid.  They know what it feels like to not get it.  So, what the heck is my problem?  I’ve been the new kid (both at school as a student and at school as a mom).  I know how hard it is to figure out new routines and culture and norms.  I’ve said it before but I think it deserves revisiting-deep down we are all still harboring that most insecure 12-year-old version of ourselves.

I can’t figure out if I’m acting out of self-preservation or if I’m just getting old and I can’t be bothered?  It’s in my nature to befriend the checkout lady at Target if she even makes eye contact.  I am Facebook friends with my hairstylists in the last 3 places we’ve lived.  I send Christmas cards to every one of my girls’ past classroom teachers.  I swear I’m really not stand-offish.  But for some reason, this year, I just cannot bring myself to try.

When I sat down with the idea of starting this post, I thought it was going to be a guide to choosing friends-sort of a “learn from my successes and mistakes” for new expats.  Because, let’s face it…making new friends in adulthood is HARD.  Most normal people make their friends as children or adolescents.  They probably add a few lifelong friends in college, lose a few of the childhood ones over the years when the trajectory of their lives go different directions.  And then add a couple more at work, or in the neighborhood.  Eventually, they make friends with the parents of their kids’ friends or people you meet through your kids’ sports or activities.  But mostly, your friends are the people who came to your wedding.  Right?  Not so for the Expat Crowd.  The Husband and I are lucky in that we are still in touch with most of our wedding party and almost all of our wedding guests, with the exception of the ones that have gone on to greener pastures or who came as the plus-one of friends and family but didn’t make the it to the finish line.  But, we’ve had to figure out how to make new friends every time we’ve moved.

This should be a simple process, right?  But it’s NOT!  Think about how many of your friends that you adored in college who married people who either you cannot stand or whom your other half cannot stand?  Or, what if (God Forbid) your friends don’t like YOUR other half?  Because Circus Dad is obviously such a barrel of fun there is no way that could ever be the case in our life.  And I’m a veritable ray of sunshine, so everybody must love me.  So, why, you might ask, is it hard to make friends??

Here’s my theory, for what it’s worth.  The expat universe means you pick up and start over.  Which is lovely-you get the opportunity to reinvent yourself.  And lord knows, I LOVE reinventing myself.  A couple of months ago, when I was still wasting hours on Facebook every day, somebody posted a link to a blog where the author had listed the 6 women you meet in the Expat Universe.  And many of us commented that we had been ALL OF THEM.  Seriously, I have been.  The trouble is figuring out who you are at your core.  Because to be flexible and malleable and GAME enough to up and move time and again…we all obviously have the ability to adapt.  But we also have to keep our finger on the pulse of who we really are.   I’ve made mistakes in choosing friends-mostly because I tried to put on a persona that wasn’t really me.  Or I was trying too hard to be accepted.  It’s all that insecure 12-year-old me that has bad teeth and stringy hair and just wants to fit in.  If we can just remember that we’re all that version of ourselves it makes it easier.   When you think of the friends that you feel the most comfortable with-aren’t they the people who you can let your hair down with?  The ones that love you despite and because of all of your quirks?   You probably don’t have everything in common with them.  But I’ll bet you have at least one major thing in common.  One place where you meet on common ground and completely mesh.

When I look back on the last 10 years and the expat friendships I’ve taken with me-I can say one thing for certain.  Each of those women were with me when I was smiling and the life of the party, but even more so…they were with me when I was sad or scared or sick or feeling like I was a total failure.  It’s impossible to judge whether or not a person you meet at a PTA welcome coffee will be that kind of friend.   But you’ll never make that friend if you don’t put yourself out there.  I’ve had some truly remarkable friendship flame-outs in my adulthood.  Embarrassing ones-really.  Because I thought I’d left that behind in middle school.  But I learned a lot from those, too.  It’s not too far off from what I tell the girls-you have to welcome the new kid.  You have to be kind and helpful and even if you get your feelings hurt every once in a while-you have to try.  And when it doesn’t work or when you find you don’t have enough in common to go forward-that’s okay.  And I’m glad to tell you that I think I’m getting better at backing away gracefully.

I think part of me is completely content with the friendships I have right now.  I feel truly blessed to say that if I were in a crisis, I have at least one friend from each stage of my life (or at least one from each country we have lived in) that I would want to reach out to.  And I would drop everything to come to them in a crisis.  I’m not saying I’m the world’s best friend-in fact there are women here that go above and beyond every day, for just about anybody.  I’m definitely not like that.  I keep it much closer to the vest.  I’d even go so far as to say that I pull back before I extend.  But, I think I’ve learned enough about myself…and become comfortable enough in my own skin to be okay turning down invitations to things that sound like fun but that I know will make me miserable.  For example-I’m not fun late at night.  I don’t like clubbing.  Dance music gives me a headache.  But, I’m the world’s best foodie dinner date (just get me to bed by 10pm).  And I could be a personal shopper to the stars.  I dare you to give me an assignment and I will find you whatever you want-online or in person.

At the moment I seem to be suffering from a miniature failure to launch.  Until I can get over it, you can find me sitting alone at Starbucks after Bootcamp.  Or in my bed at 9pm with a book.  And I’m okay with that.

6

Turning the Page

I have always loved turning the page of a calendar.  Whether it means a new week, a new month or a new year.  There’s something uniquely appealing about the possibilities that await on a brand new fresh page.  That said, I’m not really sure when I last used a paper calendar.  In fact, every year for the past 10 years I have made a calendar for the grandparents using Shutterfly.  Only this year I didn’t.  I sort of figured that nobody uses paper calendars anymore.  That is, of course, with the exception of my two friends here in Thailand that embrace their Starbucks Planners-but I make so much fun of them for their antiquated system that I really couldn’t bring myself to put all the work into making the calendars with the knowledge burning in my brain that I have not used a paper calendar for at least 5 years.

This evening, as I supervised the girls’ Sunday evening routine, I had to consult the school calendar to determine which uniform they needed to get out for tomorrow morning.  As I flipped the page, ushering in both a new month AND a new year…I was flooded with an incredible sense of possibility.  2015 will undoubtedly be a year of big changed for our family.  With apologies to the Talking Heads-what keeps playing over in my head is “Same as it Ever Was”.  We never know what changes might come as far as where The Husband’s job might take us. What that means for me from a practical standpoint is that I have a tradition of spending most of the first half of each calendar year in a state somewhere between mild angst and severe agitation as I fret over if and where we might be moving at the end of the school year.

This year, regardless of where we might be living-we will witness Bookworm finish Elementary School and begin Middle School.  In the past 10 years we’ve said goodbye to more treasured friends than I care to count.  Bookworm has been lucky in her friendships-although she has attended 4 different schools, she has managed to forge friendships with truly lovely children and has managed to maintain a really impressive number of them (a much higher percentage than her mom I would venture to guess).  Up until last year, she was always the “leaver” and not the “left-behind”.  Of course, there were kids in her class that moved, but her closest friends have always been constant.  Last year, she lost one of her closest friends and she’s already bracing herself for the impending move of another one.  I find watching my kids go through painful things more difficult than going through them myself.  It’s particularly difficult to see Bookworm do it because she is so very…almost supernaturally…sensitive.  While I look forward to watching her bloom into her adult self, I dread the day when she will come home and tell me she hates me.  I know it’s coming-I can almost taste it.   I’ve read enough books on Third Culture Kids to know that this is their “normal” and that for the most part they turn out resilient and able to make solid connections despite the fractures in their early friendships.  I’m not sure if I hope that they get really tough and choose to live really adventurous lives or if they decide that it’s just too hard and they choose to live with me forever.

This is the last year that my girls will attend the same school until they are both in High School….in 2021.  That takes my breath away.

This will be the last summer that I have to spend with The Bean while Bookworm goes off to 3.5-week slipway camp alone.  Next summer, The Bean will go with her big sister and give me a taste of what it’s like to have an empty nest.

I know for sure that a good number of friends that have been here in Bangkok as long as we have are leaving in the summer.  And I’m struggling to do the things necessary to put myself out there to make new friends as the old ones have moved on.

I often catch myself muttering under my breath about the bizarre things about Bangkok (and even more so about our little “bubble”, Nichada) that frustrate me.  But it occurs to me as I ponder what might be coming my way-anywhere we move will likely mean the end of my girls attending school on the same campus.  Then again, we might not move at all.  But for people with itchy feet like me…it’s time for something new every few years.  Circus Dad and I are at our best when we’re figuring out something new.  A new culture, a new neighborhood, a new language…even just a new routine.  I suppose if I were more pro-active, I’d be out there making something new happen.  But as much as I love to embrace a new week, month, year…I also love my routines.  So, instead, I’ll probably just wake up tomorrow and drag myself to Boot Camp to try to undo the damage I inflicted upon myself over the past 3.5 weeks.  I’m good at Boot Camp.  I’m good at dealing with the curveballs that this life throws at us.  I’m not great at having to be the one that sets the new thing into action.   I’d make a resolution to direct some of my energy on dealing with these things…but I’m spending all of my old Facebook time writing blog posts.  Which really need to stop being so serious and reflective and start being more funny.

Next time, I promise.

3

Travelogue

In honor of the new blog, I’m giving the kids new, more age appropriate Blog Names.  For the purposes of this little online recording-the Big One will be The Bookworm and the Little One will be The Bean. I remain Broccoli Mom and my very lucky life partner continues as The Husband or Circus Dad.

Dateline: Thailand

We did it!  We survived another near-circumnavigation of the globe. In coach-both ways.  That’s 6 flights, folks.  I do realize that pointing out we were sitting in coach sounds a little bit snooty.  I’m not intending to sound that way…I have lots of experience traveling with babies and kids and pets internationally BOTH ways…but here’s the honest truth.  My favorite perk of The Husband’s compensation package is our Home Leave Budget.  This budget did not exist when we lived in Switzerland because we are technically “Swiss” for the purpose of the company’s financial accounting.  So, for our first five years abroad, any trip “home” we made was on our dime.  So, you can imagine that we saved those pennies to enjoy actually doing things on vacation-we did not spend them to have larger seats or free cocktails while on board.  However, upon our relocation to Hong Kong five years ago-we were awarded a Home Leave Budget (these words would be in fancy italic text with a halo over them if I were a graphic designer or knew how to do things like that)-to be used however we please.  Technically, the budget covers the cost of 2 adult and 2 child Business Class seats from the city in which we live to Lausanne.  In case you’re not up on the price of airfare from Asia to Europe versus Asia to the USA…we aren’t actually getting all the way home for the amount of money in our budget-but almost!  The first time I took the girls back to the USA from Hong Kong (alone), I decided that budget was best used making the trip as painless as possible-so we flew Business Class and ate up the budget (plus some).  When the trip got even longer and we were flying to Thailand-I learned that kids that lie down and SLEEP on long-haul flights are happy kids.  They make the adjustment to the time change faster and whine less.  In case you are new to my blog here are two things you really should know about me: I really love my sleep, and I really do NOT love whining.  Fast forward 5 years and you have two little girls that are accustomed to seats that fully recline, meals that not only taste good but are served on white linen and are followed by warm chocolate cookies or a sundae bar.  Also-mommy gets free wine (somebody really smart once pointed out that mommy needs to be happy in order for the rest of the family to be happy, therefore by the transitive property of mommy rules, wine=happy family).

Part of the negotiation we undertook with the kids when we were debating the Christmas Trip to the USA was that we were only considering Economy Class seats. My youngest doesn’t even remember flying long-haul in seats that don’t recline. Nonetheless, they agreed…and they were troupers!  It’s possible that they did ask where the tablecloth was when the meals were delivered, and why they couldn’t have real utensils…and seriously, where are those warm cookies?  But there’s no proof that any of those things happened.  So, I’m sticking with my story that they were amazing. 3 airplanes later, we arrived approximately 1.5 hours behind schedule and had to clear the passport control with the rest of the planet.  Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok has a VIP passport control (for those who pay for the privilege or those flying Business or First Class) and a regular passport control.  Every time I fly in economy class I want to kick myself for not paying a service to usher me through that line.  It’s just insult to injury.  This time, a flight from Shanghai landed at the same time and a veritable gaggle of loud little Chinese women quickly congregated around the little one’s blonde head and began patting it and taking bizarre photos of her and with her.  It’s been a long time since she garnered that much attention from the “paparazzi”, and she was tired and irritated, so you can imagine how well that went over.  80-pounds (75 when you subtract the triple layered red lipstick and ultra teased and Aqua-Netted hair) of tiny Chinese woman was no match for 58-pounds of overtired feisty kid.  Upon clearing passport control, we proceeded to Carousel 8 where a very sweet (clad in a traffic-cone orange vest) Thai woman was holding a large sign with my name displayed in enormous text.  I know I didn’t order a car service.  What is this, you ask?  This is how you learn that United Airlines didn’t manage to get your bags on board your flight.  Not a surprise considering the girls and I literally sprinted from Gate B77 to Gate B32 at Denver International Airport in less than 5 minutes to make our connection.  Also, I learned that one should hold on to her boarding pass until after you’ve recovered your luggage.  If you don’t have it you have to fill out extra forms in the Lost Baggage office.  In Thai…which I neither speak nor read.  I’m still a little bit confused how it works that you aren’t required to take your bags through customs if the airline loses them?  Or do they just search everything??  I’m not sure, yet. I still don’t have luggage.  My bags hardly contain a thing I need.  In truth, I’m lugging home half a suitcase of gifts mailed to me for a friend; half a suitcase full of things The Husband asked me to bring home; One suitcase full of Girl Scouts badges and Journey kits, leotards for costumes for the ES musical, and nail polish for my nail lady (less than half price in the USA!); and one suitcase with toiletries (or Toilet Trees, as the littles call them), medicine and a few small things like hair-ties, reading materials and Nespresso capsules (again-less than 50% cheaper in the USA).

I didn’t make it through this post in one go.  I literally could not keep my eyes open past 8pm yesterday.  So, now I can answer the question about lost baggage and customs.  At approximately 6:30am the lost luggage office will call and tell you your bags are on their way.  Then, at 7:45am they will call again to tell you that your bags have been ex-rayed and you need to drive to the airport to declare what is inside to the Customs office.  I flatly refused and told them to unlock the bags and search them as I had nothing inside to declare (followed by a few hours of panic over what, precisely, the import rules might be on nail polish and Nespresso capsules).  One thing I have learned and am not ashamed to admit that I have learned after 3.5 years living in Thailand is that, much like Switzerland, the first answer is almost always “No”.  But unlike Switzerland, if you push back gently and politely, you will almost always get what you want.  There is a fine line between being polite but firm and being angry.  It’s a delicate balance, but if you cross over into angry you will never get what you want.  Luckily, my polite refusal to drive to Suvarnabhumi worked.  At approximately 1:45pm our bags were delivered-I didn’t have to pay duty on my coffee or nail polish and all is well.

Only I have to unpack 3 bags now.  But I’m thinking maybe that will keep me awake for the next 4 hours?