Gloria Highlights, Week 58

Gloria spent some time brushing up her skillz this week. After a few intense practice sessions, she had an “a-ha” moment with her tiger stacking toy – this involved holding the rings in both hands, and sometimes holding the base steady with her legs. Now she’ll sit with it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, deep in concentration as she practices stacking the rings one by one. It’s the only object that has ever held her fascination for so long – and hence it is a wonderful thing. She has also been making some progress with her shape sorter. She can get the shapes into the sorter, although chance still seems to play a large role in whether she matches the shape to its corresponding slot correctly or not. Often she’ll drop one shape into the sorter successfully and then attempt to drop all subsequent shapes into the same slot. On the gross motor skills front, Gloria has also been pulling herself up to standing quite a bit more (although she’s not actually cruising furniture yet).

It’s been about a week and a half since Gloria’s first dentist appointment, during which we received some instruction (and a teeny bit of a guilt trip) about getting more regular with tooth brushing. Since then, we’ve been trying more consistently, but it hasn’t gotten any easier – Miss G clenches her mouth shut tightly and refuses to let the brush in. We’d welcome any advice from experienced parents on this one!

We took Gloria to Southern California to visit her grandparents for the weekend – it was our second visit this summer (although the first was unfortunately for my grandfather’s funeral). The flight to Long Beach went surprisingly well, and Gloria even got a bit of a morning nap in the Gemini carrier. After we arrived, we met my dad for a fancy 5-course lunch at his friend’s restaurant – G enjoyed house-smoked salmon, mushroom soup, veggies, and other goodies. She seemed to have some kind of allergic reaction after the meal though – her lips broke out in spots that remained for a few hours. We suspect a shellfish allergy, as the reaction was familiar to Kenny via his sister’s childhood allergy, and Gloria did try some of the vegetables from our mussels ceviche. The meal bumped up against Gloria’s regular afternoon naptime, and our sleepy munchkin fell asleep in the car during the trip home.

The next day we took Gloria to the beach. It was her first time setting foot on the sand since Thailand so many months ago, and she seemed fascinated by her surroundings. Gloria enjoyed a nice picnic, dipped her feet in the cold Pacific Ocean, and played with little sand crabs burrowing their way into the sand (I was relieved that although she picked them up, she refrained from trying to eat them).

Sleep did not go particularly well in Huntington Beach. Gloria flat-out refused to sleep in her trusty Peapod tent that served her so well in Thailand. The first night, when we failed after many attempts to get her to sleep in the tent, she ended up passing out in a heap on the floor of Grandma Sandra’s office. The next morning, we went out and bought her a pack and play, and tried putting her in it for her morning nap. She still freaked out when we tried to leave the room, however, so Kenny stayed in the room with her until she fell asleep. This only took 15 minutes, so we decided it was a small price to pay for getting Gloria to sleep away from home. However, the next nap took 30 minutes for her to fall asleep, during which Kenny pretended to sleep on the floor next to the pack and play and observed G doing all kinds of acrobatics – pulling herself up to standing and then thumping down onto the mattress over and over. She also did some downward dogs, looked over the side of the crib to observe her motionless father, and pitched her stuffed animals out onto floor. I took a turn for bedtime, and the process took 45 minutes, as she did more acrobatics in the crib and tried to get my attention. It was an ordeal, but better than listening to her scream herself to sleep (I think).

Gloria enjoyed the trip home, although she failed to get a nap during the flight. She especially loved opening and closing the airplane window and flirting with our neighbor in the aisle seat.

Eating – and trying new foods – was a pervasive theme this week, although Gloria’s appetite was somewhat erratic (some nights it seemed like she ate air for dinner). In Huntington Beach, Gloria loved Grandma Sandra’s chicken soup (the mushy carrots, chicken, and broth), kugel, guacamole, cupcakes, barbecue chicken, watermelon, mango, blueberries, pineapple, corn (on the cob!), a whole wheat bagel, and cream cheese. She’s also been practicing with the spoon, and managed to feed herself a few bites of polenta at home earlier this week. To ease her teething pain, Gloria has been chomping on baby carrots and eating frozen peas and carrots (still frozen!) To cap off her culinary experiences for the week, Gloria joined us for our anniversary dinner at Poppy. As we often do, we brought some of “her” food along with us in case the restaurant fare arrived too late or wasn’t baby-friendly enough. It turns out, G wanted nothing to do with the food we brought, but she loved the stuffed squash blossoms, fennel soup, cauliflower gratin, and assorted other small dishes from our thali.

Dinner in the bathtub
Having dinner in the bathtub makes clean-up a snap!

Ready to board
Ready to board for Long Beach

A Cali welcome note for Gloria? Oddly, someone had chalked this message on the wall adjacent to my dad’s house.

Who needs a highchair? The floor will do just fine, thanks.

Beach family Yellow bikini
Bathing beauty at Huntington Beach

With Grandpa Moose
Ready to go boogie boarding with Grandpa Moose

Learning about sand

Dancing with daddy
Dancing with daddy in front of an impressive sand castle

Tongue of the Dragon

On our return to Thailand, it was paramount to commence our tropical fruit indulgence. Courtesy of the Chiang Mai morning market, our bellies are the happy recipients of a coconut and a mango (in fruit shake form), three rose apples, a green mango (with chili/sugar of course), and a pink dragon fruit. The last one made a particularly lasting impression on us.

Preparing a fruit shakeEnjoying the fruit shake
This enormous fruit shake contained a full coconut (meat + water) and an entire mango

LL eating dragon fruit
This time we had dragon fruit with pink flesh rather than our standard white innards…

Pink tongues
…and we have the stains to prove it

Test Flight

This weekend we took Gloria on her first plane ride, to visit family in San Francisco. We prayed that the 1.5 hour journey would go smoothly, since it was also acting as a test run for a longer flight in November (yes, we are crazy and have already booked tickets to Thailand so that Gloria can meet her Burmese cousins).

While her parents still have some things to learn about travelling with an infant (in particular around flight timings), fortunately for us the Glo-bug is a born jet-setter. In order to catch our 7:30AM flight we got Gloria out of bed a few hours early, but she stayed comatose through an outfit change, transfer to her car seat, drive to the airport, and shuttle ride to the terminal. As advised by our friends, Lauren was all prepared to nurse Gloria during takeoff. However, the Glo-bug inherited her Grandpa Moose’s “pass out on planes” gene and did not require any assistance for the pressure changes.

On our return flight we realized how much Gloria loves airports. She had been a little fussy this afternoon, but the minute we stepped foot in SFO she was happy as a clam. She loved all of the lights and movement, and couldn’t get enough of the airplane views from our gate. Even though our departure was at 8:30PM, about 1.5 hours after Gloria’s witching hour, she was happy until we boarded the plane, at which point she promptly passed out (heredity kicking in again).

On the airport shuttle SEA to SFO with Daddy
Sound asleep for most of the journey, Gloria perked up at cruising altitude

Gateside pickup at SFO
Waiting for our gate-checked luggage; the captain had to stir things up for the car seats to arrive

Waiting for our flight home
Daddy, you’re embarrassing me in front of my new SFO friends

Paradise Lost

Turns out it’s not just hype that Kauai is the wettest place on earth. During our week here, we’ve consistently had heavy rains overnight. However, they usually end around 6AM. Not today. It’s 10:30AM, we’re supposed to be at the airport, and instead we’re in the Hanalei plaza. The bridge that lies between us and aircraft has been closed since 1AM, when the water level spiked to nine feet.

Statistically the Hanalei bridge reopens when the waters recede to about four and a half feet. We monitored the water level this morning from our B&B. Since conditions were looking better (water had receded to almost five feet) we attempted our airport run at 8:30AM. Unfortunately, the weather has not decided to cooperate, with the rains kicking back into high gear. The cop at the bridge told us “it will be at least a few hours…or possibly all day. I’m stuck here as well.” For now we’re rebooked on an afternoon flight, which buys us three more hours, but I’m dubious that we’ll be able to leave the north shore at all today.

Latest bridge status – notice the uptick from about 45 minutes ago just when things started to look promising

Live video footage from the scene of the storm

I Shoulda Made a Left at Reykjavik

Our journey home from Oslo was supposed to be a simple matter of 14 hours in transit via Paris, arriving in Seattle on Monday around noon. However, little did we realize that we would be contenting with weather issues that even Lady Gaga was unable to overcome

Our 6:30am flight to Paris was delayed to 7:30, then 10, then 3pm. They were kind enough to provide us with food vouchers with each delay, but with the final update we were clearly going to miss our connection. So Air France re-routed us through Brussels for an overnight stay and departure Tuesday morning (via Atlanta). Updated ETA in Seattle: Tuesday night.

Or so we thought. An hour before departure our flight to Brussels was cancelled as they had run out of de-icing fluid. We were re-routed through Amsterdam, where we got on a train to the Brussels airport. At midnight (18 hours after leaving our Oslo hotel) we arrived at the airport, looked up at the screen of Tuesday’s departures, and discovered that our flight (as well as all other US-bound flights) was cancelled. This was probably the lowest point in any of my travels. We finally regrouped at the airport Sheraton, and after another hour long call we were booked on the Paris->Seattle flight this Thursday.

Things are looking up today. Sleeping in has helped immensely, and we are speeding along on the Thalys train to Paris. We should arrive around 5PM, which will give us a full day and two nights to soak in some unexpected deliciousness. Viva la France!

Free lunch
Lauren making the best of our food vouchers from Air France

Upper Crust bakery
We can verify this claim based on our 10 hour observation period in OSL

The Road Home

We are leaving Uganda in a few hours. Between facilitating the JAMS workshop at Makerere University and various emotional good-byes, it’s been a busy final week. We’re going to be off the grid for 10 days in Tanzania, and then we board a plane bound for Seattle. For those who enjoy details, here’s the breakdown:

  • Today: fly to Kilimanjaro
  • Sunday-Tuesday: Hike Mt. Meru
  • Wed-Mon: Safari in Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, central and northern Serengeti
  • Tues-Wed: JRO->DAR->DBX->SFO->SEA (i.e. long slog from Africa to Seattle, but at least we’re flying Emirates)

It’s been a great three months in Uganda; an inspiring conclusion to an unforgettable year. We’re leaving with countless memories and have many stories to write up when we get home. Seattle crowd, see you soon!

View from our apartment
The view from our apartment this morning

The large birds that protect our apartment
The large birds that protect our apartment building

Arrival in Uganda

After a 4am flight from Bangalore to Dubai, another flight to Addis Ababa, and a short flight to Entebbe, we arrived in Kampala. We were greeted at the airport by a cheerful driver named Miles, who told us that he is “so glad whenever I hear that someone’s first trip to Africa is to Uganda – then I know they will have a good time.”

The drive from Entebbe to Kampala was quite beautiful – the road is lined with trees and fields for part of the way, and then runs along Lake Victoria for a stretch. Kenny spent much of the ride snapping photos through the window. We hit some traffic approaching Kampala; our driver told us that this was caused by people leaving work early to catch the first World Cup game – South Africa v. Mexico.

Lake view through the cab window
Driving from Entebbe to Kampala along Lake Victoria

First view of Kampala
Our first view of Kampala

We spent a few minutes settling into our apartment, and then took a short exploratory walk around our area. We’re in an upscale part of town, called Kololo, near a golf course and a park converted to a set of international eateries. But one need not walk too far to find a bit of local color, including a huge open market situated directly on the train tracks (I suppose the vendors and shoppers knew that no trains would be arriving?) We also celebrated the fact that we actually have a kitchen here in Kampala by purchasing a few groceries on our way back home.

South Africa v. Mexico
Watching the first World Cup game – South Africa v. Mexico

Live from TPE

Here’s Lauren about to board our flight to SFO, with Little Vid and a mango we picked up in Chiang Mai this morning. We’ll see the real Vid in about 12 hours!

Heading out of TPE

Due to the magic of time zones, our flight out of Taipei leaves at 11PM tonight, and our connection in SFO also leaves for JFK at 11PM tonight. It’s going to be a long day…night…whatever it is.

Snake on a Plane

I just saw the family off at the airport for their 2PM flight. Since they had a huge breakfast of Thai favorites at 8AM, and some bonus dishes at Lauren’s NGO around 10:30, we skipped out on lunch. But just in case they got hungry on their way to Chiang Mai, I sent them off with a parcel of snake in banana leaves, complete with all of the garlic/chili/cilantro trimmings.

It was a great having Shawn, Jessica, and Moose here for the past five days, and I am sad that they’re gone. Fortunately we’re going to meet up with them in Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon for a few more days of Thailand fun!

Snake at Lauren’s office, not on a plane

Compare and Contrast

Exhibit A – Visa process for our current trip to Vietnam:

  1. Fill out a small online form and PayPal $20 per person to an agent in Hanoi.
  2. Print the approval letter you receive 2 days later.
  3. Bring printout, a passport photo, and $25 in cash to the Visa on Arrival counter when you land in Hanoi. There is no line; receive visa immediately.

Total cost: $45 per person

Exhibit B – Visa process for our last trip to Vietnam:

  1. A myriad of trials and tribulations summarized by my wife in only 1311 words here; including two round trips of Express Mail postage, visa fees, and emotional stress due to perceived loss of passports.

Total cost: ~$100 per person + severe risk of PTSD

If planning a trip to Vietnam, allow me to recommend the visa on arrival route. It is both cheaper and more convenient. We are now safely and legally in Vietnam.