Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Sale

Today was the 5th grade book sale at ISB.  Every year the 5th graders collect and sell books, with the proceeds going to help underprivileged children in Thailand to get an education.

I stopped by and picked up Aleena from her classroom to walk her over to the book sale.  She had brought 200 baht (a little less than $7).  The books are 50 baht each, so she had planned on buying four.  As we were getting her money out of the bag, she said that she only wanted to spend 100 baht, because she was going to pay for a book for two of her friends, Nyla and Suhani, who had not brought any money.

It was very nice of her, so I went back into the classroom and spoke with her teacher who allowed me to take Suhani and Nyla with us.  The book sale was just down the hall from their classroom.  When we were talking over, her friends had big smiles.  They were talking about how when the teacher called their names to come up, that they thought they were in trouble.  It was so cute and funny.   

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

B&W Girls

On this shot, I had the girls bend over and make faces. The problem was that it changed the lighting. At first I didn't like the shot because the exposure was off. I played around with it a little, and I like how it looks as a black and white.


Aleena & McKayla

Late last week I bought a photo backdrop stand so that I could take some portrait photos. With all the photos that i took over the weekend, I didn't get a chance to use it until today.

Aleena and her best friend McKayla have many matching outfits. I photographed them in some of their matching outfits.

Apparently McKayla was not very happy with the idea of taking the photos. When she got to our house, however, and saw the backdrop and the lights she changed her mind.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Third Day in China

On our third day we flew to Huanglong.  There are more Tibetans living here than anywhere except Tibet.  Our 8:50 a.m. flight was delayed a couple of hours.  Fortunately  we weren’t on the 6:40 a.m. flight, which took off only a few minutes before ours.  Getting up at 4:00 a.m. to sit in the airport for hours would have been much worse than getting up at 6:00 a.m. like we did.
The highlight of this day was to see multi-colored lakes behind a temple at the top of a mountain.  We took a cable car part of the way up, and then went on a 2.5 kilometer walk to the temple.  Aleena was really tired, so I ended up carrying her on my shoulders for a good part of the walk.

We were as high as 4,000 meters on this day.  The air is a lot thinner, and we had some oxygen bottles in case someone became short of breath.  

Our tour guide Michael was very enthusiastic.  He taught himself English, learning from backpackers over the years.  Overall he wasn’t bad, but I was pretty frustrated him at one point.  When we got near the temple, it was a three hundred meter walk up some steps.  Michael said that we could go up, and that he would wait for us.  
Tim and I didn’t realize that there were the colored waters behind the temple.  We walked up and saw the temple, and then walked back down.  The kids were really tired at this point.  When we got back down to Michael, then he told us about the waters.  I really didn’t want to take the kids back up to the top, as we still had a 4.5 kilometer walk down.  Our flight delay meant that the cable car was closed by the time we were ready to go back down.
Tim really wanted to go back up, so I started the trip back down, while she, Sine and Michael went up to the top.  I probably should have had Sine stay with the kids and went up with Tim, but it wasn’t a big deal.  The kids were actually pretty good on the walk down.  Before we got to the bottom, Tim and the others had caught up to us.
The worse part of our whole trip was the van ride to the hotel.  It was snowing, the roads were winding, and Tim and Aleena had really bad headaches.  They may have been suffering from altitude sickness of some sort.  The ride was three hours, and we felt ever second of it.
By the time we got back to the hotel at 9:00 p.m., everyone was exhausted.  Only Sine and I went down to eat dinner.  We stayed in the Intercontinental Chengdu, which I believe has a thousand rooms.  
Here are some photos from our adventures that day.  








A Second Day in China

On our second day of our China trip, we visited the Golden Summit in Sichuan Sheng.  This World Heritage site boasts a golden temple on mountain with a giant golden Buddha statue.
To get to the site, we took a two or three hour bus ride to the park entrance.  You generally cannot take your own car up to the top, so we transferred to a park bus for the forty-five minute ride.  We then hiked a few kilometers to the top.  Later we found out that for another $200 or so, we could have ridden our van all the way to the top.  Even if we had known, we would have made the hike up.
Our timing was actually pretty good.  The guide told us that it is cloudy and overcast 300 plus days a year.  It was pretty cloudy when we first made it to the summit, but after a few minutes, we had the sun and blue sky peak through for a while.  As we made our way down, it started drizzling a little.  Fortunately, we had lunch near the top, and by the time we were done, the rain was done as well.
The view at the summit was nice.  There was a lot of riding and walking that day, and Tim ended up carrying Aleena part of the way up.  

We ended up staying in the Holiday Inn in Chengdu.  It was the second hotel in the second day.  







Little Gymnast

_MG_2438 by ebvImages
_MG_2438, a photo by ebvImages on Flickr.

As I think I mentioned, the lighting inside the gym wasn't the greatest. I took a few photos outside the gym where the lighting was a bit better. I liked this photo of Aleena.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday

This year, we celebrated this Easter with an Easter egg hunt and going to a brunch buffet at the restaurant in the Swissotel restaurant. We did the egg hunt at school and had ten kids participate.

It was a couple of kids first Easter egg hunt, so it was nice. I also hid two small eggs for a couple of Thai mothers who had never participated before. I made their eggs much harder to find. I had to play the colder/warmer game with one to help her find the egg.

I felt a little bad for Jacob, because he was the only boy. Most of the girls were Aleena's age, but Nalin had a friend there as well.

After the egg hunt we went to brunch where we ate entirely too much. The food was pretty good and pretty inexpensive because they had a special where kids under 12 ate free. We had six adults and ten kids, so it worked out pretty nicely. The restaurant had a clown who made balloons, a Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse character, and Easter egg hunt, and a magician to entertain the kids. It was really nice for the adults, because we could sit and relax. We ended up at the restaurant for almost three hours.

Overall it was a really fun day. By the time we got back home, everyone was pretty tired and ready to rest a bit.


Panther Paws

Friday night was the start of the Panther Paws Track & Field events. For five Friday evenings in April and May, elementary students at ISB have the opportunity to compete in track and field style games.

I signed all three kids up. Jacob and Aleena were thrilled to participate, while Nalin was less than happy. She let me know that in no uncertain many times leading up to Friday, and at least three times on the ten minute bike ride to school. At the end though, they all had a lot of fun. Nalin would only admit that it was "ok", although I suspect that she enjoyed being with some of her friends.

All of the parents of participants are required to help in some way. Its really necessary because it takes a lot of people to coordinate so many events. I was lucky enough to be cast as the photographer. I had fun too.

Here are a few photos from the event.


_MG_1374 - Version 2



Gymnastics Competition

On Saturday and Sunday, ISB hosted its first gymnastics competition. Aleena competed on Saturday in the level one girls level. She did a nice job, and I think that she had a lot of fun. She and her friend McKayla were in the same group, so they were together the entire time.

Aleena competed in four events. The final event was the balance beam. During her scored competition, she saw our nanny Yaow and McKayla's nanny Meow and stuck her tongue out at them. There she is walking on a balance beam and she sticks her tongue out at someone in the audience.

Aleena and McKayla ended up playing together after the competition. All in all I think they spent about eleven hours together on Saturday.

I was asked to take some photos of ISB gymnasts. There was also a team of professional photographers there photographing the event. They had a team of at least eight photographers plus another seven or eight support staff. I saw some of the books that they put together, and they are pretty slick.

Indoor sports photography presents some challenges because of the lighting. The lighting is generally is dim and often has a yellowish tint. The dimness is exacerbated by the fact that they are moving which means that a slower shutter speed can result in subject blur. To compensate, I shot in a high ISO. The advantage of higher ISO settings is that they require less light and allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed. The disadvantage is that higher ISO shots introduce more noise into the photo.

I shot between 1600 and 3200 ISO. On my old 40D, 3200 would have been completely unacceptable, but with the 5D Mark II, it isn't nearly as bad. I took over 2,000 shots, so I'm working my way through them. Below are a couple of Aleena, including one of her sticking out her tongue.



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kid Notes

While on our China trip, Nalin started saying hello in four different languages. She says "hello, bonjour, neehow, sawadee ka" over and over. She doesn't speak any other French (or Chinese for that matter), but she just really likes saying bonjour.

During breakfast on our last day in China, I was talking to Aleena and Jacob. Jacob was speaking to Aleena and said "I put milk in honey". Not able to resist a play on words, I said, "Jacob that is nice that you called your sister 'honey'". Usually Aleena doesn't pick up on those things, but she just got a big smile on her face and said "oh, the kind of honey you eat and calling someone honey." It was one of those moments that just made me smile.

That is One Big Buddha

On our first day in China, we visited the Leshan Giant Buddha statue in Sichuan. The seventy one meter high statue sits at the intersection of the Minjang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. Construction finished in 803, taking 90 years to complete.

The statue was championed by a monk who sought to build this to protect the local people from flooding. After his initial attempts at getting the project started, he removed his own eyes. This dedication apparently moved the Governor at the time to undertake the project.

We took a boat ride to view the Giant Buddha. You can actually go there, but we just viewed it from the boat.

Its amazing to think of a project that lasts 90 years. Its very likely that no-one in the area who was alive at the start of the project was still alive at completion. The fact that this was completed over 1,300 years ago is even more astounding. In one sense it was interesting to see it, but I don’t know if it was really worth the time. We were probably in front of it less than five minutes.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I took most of my photos in portrait (taller than wide) mode. That would have been okay, but I should have taken a few in landscape so that I could get all of the carvings on both sides of the statue.




_MG_9232 - Version 2

New Years Travels

Songklon, the Thai New Year, is the biggest holiday of the year here. While the official holiday is three days, many people take off the entire week. A great many of the people who come to work in Bangkok go back to their home provinces to celebrate with family.

The Thai schools are still off for their summer break. ISB, the school our children attend, is closed for the week, so we like to use this time to go on trips.  Some years we have stayed in Thailand, while others we've gone abroad.  Its a tough choice because Songklon is probably the most fun time of the year here in Thailand, yet the nine days off makes it a good time to fly somewhere.

We stayed in Thailand last year, so this year we planned to visit Japan.  The recent events there caused us to cancel that trip. Instead, we booked a six day trip to South West China. Our destinations included Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou National Park, and Sichuan. We wanted to include Beijing in our itinerary, but had trouble finding a flight due to the last minute bookings.

Overall we had a pretty fun trip. The beginning was a bit rough, but it definitely picked up at the end. Instead of one long blog, I’ll break it up into smaller bits.

Friday, April 8, 2011

ES Games

The first three years that we were here, ISB had ES Games, where each class would compete against other classes in their grade level.  The event was held in December, and would include some indoor games as well as several track events.  

This year, December passed by and their was no ES Games.  This week each grade had a double recess period, where the classes competed in games and participated in activities.  Aleena's class had an obstacle course, and played a game where you tried to knock the beach ball across the opponent's line by throwing Nerf balls at it.  They let the parents play as well, and it probably didn't hurt Aleena's team that one of the fathers was a quarterback at Mississippi State back in the mid 80's.  Jacob and Nalin had similar events where you would try to knock down cones with Nerf balls and bowling pins with Frisbees.  

After the games, each student received a fruit smoothie from Twist.  I think that might have been the highlight of the games, at least for my children.


Songkron Assembly

Today was the elementary school Songkron assembly at ISB. Songkron is the traditional Thai new year and is celebrated with pouring or throwing water on other people. In my opinion, its the best time to be in Thailand.

The Thai language students put on several performances to entertain and educate about Songkron. The first was a skit where boys and girls in traditional Thai costumes talked about the meaning of Songkron. Afterwards, the students performed a traditional Thai dance accompanied by the playing of drums.

Jacob was a drummer in the show. He told me that all the drummers were boys, but that a few boys had to be dancers. I asked him how the teacher decided who dance and who would drum. Jacob's response was just funny. "The last ones to raise their hands to volunteer to be drummers had to dance."

The students did a great job.  I sat down on the mats in front so that I could get some better photos.


Author Celebration

Today was the Author Celebration in Nalin's class, as parents were invited to class so that the students could share the stories that they had written.  Nalin was very pleased, because not only did I come, but Tim was also able to juggle her schedule to make it as well.   

The main character of Nalin's story was a girl named Banana Split who struggled with making new friends after the best friend moved. In addition to sharing their stories, they recited a poem as a group, and a few students shared poems that they had written.




Thursday, April 7, 2011

China Town

On Tuesday night, Tim and I went out with some friends to Bangkok's China Town.  We were all the parents of first graders.  ISB requires a parent or nanny to drop off the kids up through first grade, so you end up getting to know the some of the other first grade parents pretty well.  

We didn't leave Nichada until almost 9:00 p.m., and arrived in China Town about half past nine.  Our first stop was a noodle stand which served noodles (big surprise) with some really tasty pork.  There was just a tiny bit of pork in each bowl, so when I dropped the biggest piece on the ground, Tim just glowered at me.  Next we went to another street restaurant, this time down an alley.  I went to get some water from 7-11, and by the time I returned, they were already finished.

The first two stops were pretty small servings; just enough to whet our appetites.    At our third stop, we ordered quite a bit of food, including crab, shrimp, vegetables, and even snails.  The real treat, however, came in the form of cooked crickets and grasshoppers sold by a cart passing the restaurant.  Not everyone partook in the but eating, but I did.  They actually weren't bad.  The crickets were a bit salty, and the grasshoppers a bit chewy.  To further add to the street ambiance, a garbage truck pulled behind for a few minutes.  

Our final stop was at a street stall that served some Thai deserts.  I skipped most of the deserts, but did try a chocolate filled bun, which was quite good.  

It was a pretty late night, and we didn't get home until almost 1:00 a.m.  Sorry there are no photos from me, as I left my camera at home for the night.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Today Aleena was playing with some friends and she demonstrated the splits.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cable Again

So, after three years without cable, I finally broke down and decided to order it again.  We had cable the first six months or so that we were here, but it was under our landlord's name.  We received the bill directly, but if we wanted to make any changes, like adding a channel, the landlord had to call.  I didn't care for this much, so I got rid of it.

To make due, we watch DVD's and I download programs.  The channel choices are still pretty poor, and the only way you can get a DVR through the cable company is to buy it.  I'm thinking about putting together my own dvr using my computer.  From what I've read, it doesn't look to be too difficult.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Sale Oops!

ISB is collecting books for its annual 5th Grade Used Book sale.  The proceeds go to helping poor children in Thailand receive an education.

A month or so ago, I went through my books and filled a few bags with those that I wanted to donate or otherwise get rid of.  Last week, I grabbed a bag of them to donate to the school.  The school has collection boxes in front of the Elementary School office, and as I was depositing the bag, I noticed that the top book in my bag was titled  

I didn't really want to pull the book out of the bag and carry it around with me for the next half hour, so I left it in there.  I'm sure that some one might think that it isn't an appropriate item for a 5th grade book sale, and my guess is that it won't be sold.  The book isn't about sex, but rather about the fight for the domain name  Still, the first thing you see when you look at the title is in large letters.  Oops!

World of Fun

_MG_1822 - Version 3 by ebvImages
_MG_1822 - Version 3, a photo by ebvImages on Flickr.

Today we took the kids to Siam Park City. Anna, her mother and brother, and McKayla also went.

Siam Park City is an amusement and water park in Bangkok. They have some roller coasters and a few other rides. The rides are probably on par with Dreamworld, maybe not quite as good; certainly not in the class with Kings Island. I didn't see much of the water park, as I got a Thai Massage for the hour we were at the water park.

We only ended up staying for four or so hours, as Jacob had a baseball game at 5:00 p.m.

Sleep Over

_MG_1838 by ebvImages
_MG_1838, a photo by ebvImages on Flickr.

A couple of weeks ago, Nalin spent the night at her friend Anna's house. Anna's mom told Tim a funny story.

Anna has a twin brother, and they sleep in the same bedroom. When Nalin spent the night, Peter slept in another room, Nalin slept in Anna's bed, and Anna slept in Peter's bed.

Each night, Anna's father comes home and kisses Anna before he goes to bed. When Nalin heard about this, she was worried that he would mistake her for Anna in the dark and kiss her. Nalin wrote a note and left it on the steps where Anna's dad was sure to see it. The note explained that she was sleeping in Anna's bed, and that he should not kiss her by mistake. Not only did the note work, but it gave us all a good laugh.