Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vietnam... November 2014 (YES, 2014! Ridiculousness....)

Okay. I KNOW it's 2016. And I know we live in Idaho now. YOU may not know that, if you are a random person, but I'm fairly certain no random person reads this blog nowadays, so I don't think it's a shock to anyone to hear that. And I really don't think there's much blog traffic nowadays in general, but IF you have read this before, and IF you have stumbled, in amazement, back on here, you should still not be surprised to hear me say:

I'm so very, very behind!!!  But this is for us to look back on later, so it's gonna go up anyway! We went to Vietnam in November 2014, while still living in Okinawa, with the McHendricks. Also, we went to Cambodia. But this post is just about Vietnam, so... yeah... Forward, ho!

Our first stop was the Cu Chi Tunnels, near Ho Chi Minh City. They're part of the elaborate network of tunnels underneath much of the country, and were used by the Viet Cong during the war.

Nuala trying out a tunnel entrance. 

A captured American tank. In times of peace they make great climbing playgrounds. 
I think that should be their main purpose, myself.

It was definitely an interesting experience, watching the video at the museum. It was so very, very, biased. Against the Americans. Which is to be expected, of course, but it was still somewhat disconcerting. Kids = BIG EYES.

Megan and Reika! Cuteness. They were a bonus attraction for all the other tourists there.

Our guide showing us some of the traps set for American soldiers. They were horrific. I couldn't help but think that many of those GIs were just young little guys... someone's little boy! That's the thing about wars. On both sides. They just cause such pain for mothers, fathers, families...

Nuala, Maeve, and Fiona by some Viet Cong dolls.

I like this pic... The five mobile kids, all after the orange kitty cat. "HaHA! Suckers! You'll never catch me!" And they didn't.

Going down into the tunnels... They were tight! I know I have a pic showing that better... hmmmm... well, if it doesn't pop up here anytime, just know that even Maeve had to bend over often, going through the tunnels!

Ahhhh... exhaustion... at dinner time...

Outside the building where we went to the local branch. It was so cool. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Attending the local LDS church while in different countries is one of my favorite parts of our adventures! The Vietnamese members were so kind and welcoming, and it was neat seeing the hymns in Vietnamese (and hearing them! Though we just sang in English. Shocker.). They even had a bunch of pictures up on a bulletin board of the Young Women from the branch at their YW Camp. It's just so cool, seeing how much alike the gospel makes us, even while we are all so different!

Ahhh, the hymn book!

Oh, and here's a farther away shot of the house the church meets in. It was so pretty!

At a post office. Writing postcards. Some to various grandparents, some to themselves. I wish we'd done this in every country! Had the kids write themselves a postcard and mail it from the country we were in! N&B loved getting them! M wished she could go back in time and NOT be stubborn and actually write one to herself. TOLD YOU SO, MAEVE.

Another tired eating picture. Stopping to eat let everyone's exhaustion catch up! Leif and Maeve. And another Vietnamese kitty.

We went to a water puppet show one night. It was so fun! The puppeteers (next pic) are behind that curtain, and there are long sticks attached to the underside of the puppets that they use to move them. It was colorful and musical (there are some of the musicians, off to the left) and definitely a different experience! 

Helloooooo, puppeteers! 

Maeve and Leif, good little car buddies!

The boys, a-jumpin' into the pool at one of our hotels. 
There's Zachariah, Bran, Rijen, and little Leif, with his head...  unfortunately placed...

Now the girls' turn! Me, Maeve, Megan and Reika, Fiona, and Nuala... good times...

I just had to take a picture of this talented napper. That is some serious balance/confidence. *Slow applause*

Fresh juices!! So good. Nuala's is watermelon... Maeve's... shoot. Pineapple? Orange?

BranMan and Leif, sharing some coconut milk. 

We went to the War Remnants Museum. Lots of tanks and planes and helicopters. Lots of exhibits detailing the horrors of the war, and not just of the American part of it, but how the Vietnamese government treated their own people.

Also very sad pictures of the results of Agent Orange, etc.

It really was an eye-opener for Nuala.  I kind of didn't want her to walk through that exhibit, but in the end decided it was important, and she really wanted to.

Now I awkwardly will try to transition back to: Yay! Fun stuff! Oh, but this first picture is less "yay" or "fun," and more just... stuff... 

I mean, look at those!!! Really. Look them in the eyes. Because you can.

This is a piece of squid... mmmmm... Okay, so we took a little cruise out into Halong Bay -- just us. The McHendricks and ourselves. Beautiful. So beautiful.  Lunch was served on board, and we requested not much seafood, because we knew that a lot of THAT sorta stuff would not go over well. Which it didn't. But we tried so hard to be appreciative and not wasteful. I cannot, canNOT eat shrimp-type things. I'm gagging now just thinking about them. And then to have their FACES still attached? Wow. You likely will be amazed to hear that I did actually RIP one apart, like you're supposed to, and ate it. Bran and Maeve ate some of everything, because we're big into "you will try it once!!!" Nuala, the stinker, would not touch anything ocean-related. I mean, I get it, I do. But she was angrily adamant, in a very aggravating way (brought to you by the letter A!). Zac pretty much ate the whole plate of shrimp you see up there, besides the three that Bran, Maeve, and I... enjoyed. And it was piled EVEN higher. Whatta guy.

Ahhhh... gorgeous.

We stopped at a little island with a cave. And a bunch of other boats and tourists. The cave was fun, as caves tend to be. This was a cute pic of M and Z. See? Cute.

The shame! THIS is the only picture I have of our whole group!!!! The only one. But here we are. Rijen and Megan and their kiddos: Leif, Fiona, Reika. And us. Sigh. We miss them so much!!! They were the best neighbors and friends and travel buddies we could have asked for. Plus they have *fabulous* taste in names. I do not doubt that we have more adventures in store together in the future...

And just them. We hiked up a million stairs. I think Leif felt like there were 4 million.  But we were rewarded with a lovely view.

And the acquaintance of a lovely Australian couple. The husband let Maeve take his picture. 

I don't know why I didn't end up with any pictures showing the girls' shirts better, but this adorable one will have to do. Megan got about a thousand. It was quite the photo shoot. Meg got them these coordinating shirts, and they looked so casually perfect for SE Asia. Perfect. Leif's trying to get in on the kissing action. Can't blame him.

Look for Nuala on the cover of... shoot, here I am, trying to be clever, and I can't think of a fancy magazine for her to be on the cover of! Vogue? Nooo... I think National Geographic Traveler is more up her alley... Or maybe Cute Goofballs... That's totally one, right?

Awwww... baby Reika!

Here Maeve was demonstrating how one smooches one's biceps to highlight their amazingness...

I like this one of the girlies. Those are Nuala's elephant pants, purchased in Cambodia. (We went to Cambodia in the middle of the Vietnam visiting. So, Vietnam-->Cambodia-->north Vietnam). Zac likes to call them, "local pants." I, ahem, got some, as well.

Maeve's feet. Oh, goodness, this child. What went wrong with her sandals on this trip? I can't remember... see how terrible it is to not write it up immediately? You forget! I think, since we went in November, she hadn't been wearing her summer sandals as regularly (which would be weird, b/c November is clearly still sandal season in Okinawa), or we moved her up to some of Nuala or Bran's outgrown ones? and they didn't fit just right? Anyway, I think she was getting blisters, so for a few days there at the end of the trip (okay, maybe just one day! I hope. Otherwise we are really terrible parents.) she was walking around barefoot. In SE Asia. Which plenty of kids and people do, but still is probably not the best idea if you have other options. I think it was actually just this one day, while doing Halong Bay. Then we got back to our hotel, cleaned one of her feet, took a picture of them both to show how black the bottoms were, and then bought her some little shoes the following day. Yep, that's what happened. But... Look how dirty! There. That's the whole point of that picture.

Pho! Because VIETNAM. It was tasty. And cheap. Which = AWESOME.

On a little bridge, with a pretty fish mosaic.

At the Hanoi Hilton.  These statues of prisoners were a little intense. And the hallway was dark and creepy. It was an experience.

Walking through a big park, we came across some young men in the Vietnamese military, practicing some maneuvers. They were super happy to take a picture with some of the kiddos. Nice fellas! Oh! And behold Maeve's new Vietnamese shoes... her star shoes! That's right... which now of course are way too tiny for her growing-too-fast-for-her-mother-to-be-okay-with little body.

Annnnddd... for the final (somewhat anti-climatic) picture of Vietnam... Bran on an exercise machine in the park. He patiently waited his turn for that! Not pictured: the little grandma lady who tried to bust in front of him. Also not pictured: the other little grandma lady who didn't let her.

Up next: Cambodia!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

last summa'... 2014... aka, Non-Water Summer Fun in Oki

Beach... swimming... snorkeling... waterfalls... that's what a summer in Okinawa is about! BUT, one cannot stay submerged all the time, so here's some stuff we did when we had to drag ourselves onto land.  Though if you want to see our water fun, please refer to posts such as Beachy Times in Oki... Summer 2014, and a couple of others, but I remember that I linked them down below a couple of pictures, so I will pass on that here... Ahem. And now! Non-Water Summer Fun in Oki!

Now it's THIS summer (when I started writing this post. NOW it's October. 2015. Boo), so I really should get these outta the lineup!  LAST summer was *not* that long ago. I don't know why suddenly it's been... what...?  a YEAR?  Humph.  There's little bitty Zumi, who is now a big tough cat, who has scars from tangling with a habu and surviving it.  But last summer he was small and snuggly.  He's still snuggly, and still prefers his snuggle buddy to be Maeve...

Also last summer, Grandma Buttons came to visit us!  You may have seen her featured in previous posts, such as Whale Sharks! July 2014, and Ta Taki: Waterfallin' with Grandma Buttons. Also briefly in Beachy Times in Oki... Summer 2014.  BUT, even though I'm pretty sure one of her very favorite places to be is in the water, here you will see that occasionally we kept her on dry land.  Like when we went to Katsuren-jo!  Katsuren Castle.

It has a lovely view of the water from the top, though!

We also went to Okinawa World.  This was the first time for all of us.  

We finally got to see a (live) habu!  Stripey, our cat-we-had-before-Zumi (and still have), has been bitten by one of these suckers, also.  It got her on the neck, and she also survived it.  Poor kitties.

Look at those fangs!

Of course, everyone wants to hold a snake.  The girls didn't want his rear, though.  I don't blame them.  Who wants to hold someone's tush?

Grandma Buttons is really making a huge contribution to the snake holding here...

How pineapples grow...  I totally always assumed they grew on trees! Nope.

Habu Sake.  A dead (of course. hopefully.) habu in sake.  Liquor. The alcohol helps the venom to dissolve and become non-poisonous. Supposedly it has medicinal properties as well...  energy... a boost in the male libido.  Apparently a habu is able to mate for as long as 26 hours (uhhh... doesn't one or both get bored??), so some of that OBviously gets passed on to those drinking the sake...

We got to dogsit Koji for about a month.  He was a perfect guest (esp b/c he slept over at Grandma Buttons little house! kept her company!), and we all loved him.  Made us realize that having a dog might not be the huge pain we've always thought it would be... ;)  

The cats actually liked him, too! Okay, Zumi did. He kept grabbing onto his tail. He loved playing with him!  Stripey just avoided him.

Ahhhh, here's a pic of Stripey! She's kinda grumpy in general, but super tolerant of the kids. As is evidenced above. 

The Aquarium! Churaumi Aquarium. It's awesome.

Here's the dolphin and whale show.  The kids are down in that crowd somewhere, gettin' soaked.


Ahhhh... nice on a hot Oki day!

This guy.  He just looks so wise. Probably thinking something like, "My shell feels a bit tight back there," but to all of us, there's just pure wisdom behind those old eyes...

Me, in awe: "This is almost a spiritual connection..."
Him, slightly bored: "If she were a fish, what would she taste like?"

After trekking through all the exhibits, the kids get to go and play on the super fun rope playground. And GB and I got to watch, because there are many signs saying "not for over-12's!" Sigh.

See how fun?!

Over-12s are allowed to stand by the ropes, though.

Just another plant sculpture. A stingray?  Mostly this is to show how the employees were starting to strap everything down, because you see... this was the night a typhoon was making its way to us!  It was a semi-dicey ride home. At least being the driver.  The wind was pretty strong on the expressway, but (phew!) we made it!

The typhoon (I can't remember which one it was!  I'll go look it up...), Typhoon Neoguri! came and went, and knocked our power out for a whole day!  The nerve.  But really, we're grateful that's all that has happened during our many, many typhoons here on Okinawa!

Simi love!  Simis are cicadas, and boy are they plentiful (and loud!) during the summer. Obviously the girls do not mind man-handling bugs. Woman-handling!

*smoochie smooch!!*

Z and I got to go out by ourselves with Grandma Buttons! And we ate lots of yummy food. And GB is a pro with her chopsticks! Also, at this place some Japanese tourists from the mainland asked to take a picture with me. WITH ME! The kids are super popular out-and-about, so when they're around I just fade into the background... sigh... but without them-- Momma's turn to shine!!! It was weird. I'm not fancy or ultra-blond. I mean, I AM gorgeous, so I guess there's that... haha... I *love* seeing the rascals being fawned over! It's so fun. "Why, yes, they ARE super "kawaii" (cute), aren't they?!"

Ahhh... Shuri Castle. Shuri-jo. With some cool fold-up Okinawan hats from the 100yen store.

We love Shi-sas, yes we do.

Zachariah does a great job of mixing old and new...

Nuala and Maeve in their matching bingata dresses. Bingata is typical/traditional Okinawan fabric, and I love it. 

THIS is a pretty cool roller-slide. Grandma Buttons sure enjoyed it! (And a side note, now that it's October 2015... I went with a workout group to this park one morning. Dude. The girl in charge was... in really good shape. We went up and down those stairs -- including that spiraling observation tower!!! -- so many times! At the end of it, I could barely drag myself to the parking lot, and ended up puking in some bushes. Luckily I hadn't eaten a lot beforehand, but it was still embarrassing.  There were a couple of old Japanese gentlemen, just a-hangin' out.  I had no dignity, nor the strength to care about having no dignity. I didn't look at them, though... Just stuffed Maeve in the car and took off!)

Being in Okinawa requires lots of water and fans.

Sweaty times. Good times, but sweaty.

I have never ever heard of anyone being mugged with a gun in a park in Oki. But can't hurt to be wary of that possibility!

I always like the sign for this store!  I should ask Z what it says...

Cuteness in a little Maeve package!

A pretty cool lil' moth...

Oh, yes! The rascals did a painting party thing! Here is Maeve's painting face.


Serious stuff, this is...

The end results! Bran would not smile. He was upset that he hadn't gotten to finish. Punk. They had fun (except for Bran at the end), and they turned out really cute!

Awwww... Maeve and Zumi... snugglers for life.

The teeny-tiny kids' stall at the Wonder Museum. I think Maeve faked having to go a few times, just to use it... Can't blame her.

And I guess that's some of our 2014 summer! Never mind that it's fall of 2015 now. I'm so ashamed.