Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 24th, outsourced

"...but still. on. a Friday!" Due to a weird confluence of circumstances, I forgot yesterday was Friday. So here you are, a day late!

Where on earth is Umm Al-Qawain? I loved the BBC's look at the lesser-known Emirates.

This flying baby is the cutest and the pictures are awesome! [HT Kathy]

This bizarre item in a Lego video game recently came to my attention. WOAH.


I am the worst at attributions, so I can't remember who posted this, but: What I learned in my 40s.

This guy is a friend of a friend, and the video is from a few years ago, but dang if I didn't almost cry watching it - Aladdin hopeful gets called up on stage to sing with Lea Salonga. [HT Kat]

Ooooh I wish I could see my kids playing this game - some kind of whipped cream (?) roulette?

Your manuscript on peer review. Love it. [HT Andrew]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sri Lanka tips

I really wanted to call this post Serendip Tips, but I didn't.

Tips for your next trip to Sri Lanka!

1. Hire a driver. I was hesitant to do this because, well, we've never done this, but I am so glad we did! I only wish we would have hired him earlier in the planning process. I didn't want to outsource our itinerary to someone else - I wanted to see what WE wanted to see, not what some guy thought was good enough for tourists. But with the driver we ended up hiring, turns out I could have told him we wanted x, y, and z, and he would have delivered. Now we know. (And I can recommend a great driver if you need one.)

1a. Overestimate driving times. Relevant to the above: Google Maps is worthless for itinerary feasibility studies. Driving times in reality were two to three times what Google Maps estimated. So when I sent our original itinerary to our driver a few weeks before the trip, he probably laughed out loud for a while. Then he wrote me back a very nice email saying, tactfully, that 17 hours of driving in one day might be tough on the kids.

1b. Be prepared to haggle. Section b relevant to the above: if you do not hire a driver, then have fun haggling every little ride to and from the train/bus station, and to every attraction. In a country where we didn't speak the language and where the currency is one of those with too many zeroes, it was a blessing to have negotiated the price ONCE, and have done with it. We did want a token tuk-tuk ride, and our driver arranged one for us at no extra cost. I have dreams of seeing Sri Lanka by train someday, but today is not that day.

2. Baby backpack or stroller? The eternal question, am I right? Ideally you'd bring both, but come on. We chose backpack and it was for the best. Of course there were times we wished we had the stroller. But the infrastructure in Sri Lanka is at a level where a stroller would often be unusable.

2a. Baby crib or no baby crib? Jeremy and I went back and forth on this one. It turned out that all the hotels could have provided cribs, thus sparing us the hassle of bringing our portacrib. However, they were not really age-appropriate for Sterling (he could have climbed out easily). So in the end, I was glad we had our own that we knew was safe for him. Even if it was a pain to lug around. If he were a year younger, I think we would have been fine with the ones offered by the hotels.

3. Socks and long sleeves/pants. Please to be bringing these. You can't get into the religious sites unless you're covered, and you will burn off the soles of your feet if you don't wear socks in the places where you must remove your shoes.

4. Mosquito netting/repellent/bug bite cream. There are a lot of mosquitoes in Sri Lanka. We outfitted our girls with those citronella bracelets and applied repellent as well. We also packed itch relief cream for the errant bite. Jeremy is awesome so he packed two mosquito nets - I'm so glad he did because one of our hotels did not provide them.

5. Baby food. I already talked about this but if you have a baby or young toddler, consider bringing along a lot of food for them. We were often on the road, hours away from any semblance of a hot meal, and it would have been a nightmare to deal with a hungry baby in that situation. Even when we stopped at roadside stands, sometimes all that was on offer were stale wafer crackers and chips. That said, bananas were fairly easy to find, as were coconuts.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Goodbye, Gil

Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie) is dead.

Anne of Green Gables (and Anne of Avonlea) was a HUGE part of my media consumption as a kid, as my sister can confirm. We were bored? Pull out the VHS. We were sick? Pull out the VHS. Christmas vacation from school? Staying up late in the summer? Yeah. At first, our copy of the movie was a VCR recording from Wonderworks (with the hot air balloon intro) or PBS or whatever it was that first broadcast Anne of Green Gables. Eventually we must have worn it out because my parents bought a real VHS of it. Where can I even watch it now? How can I make sure my kids grow up to be right-minded and well balanced, which they cannot be unless they have internalized this movie?

I'm due for a re-watch, myself.

Here's my favorite Gil moment, as in, my sister and I laugh about it/love it to this day: when he Stand-up Claps for Anne after her performance at the White Sands Club (?) and his hair is all bouncy and his face is all bouncy. Of course there is a gif (though it's not long enough in my opinion).

Please tell me you have cherished favorite memories of these movies, too.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th, outsourced

I found this account of an internet writer's life without WiFi to be very interesting.

I know it's the Daily Mail, but wow, four American high schoolers were accepted to all eight Ivy League universities!

Kids are THE BEST. Look up that flying fairy video on its own if you can - it makes me laugh every time.

My mom sent me this article about getting through tough times in parenthood. I totally agree that some of us are not [insert stage] people - the baby stage is really hard for me, and so it was nice to feel validated.

Here's that Cheryl's Birthday brainteaser, solved.

NAMES 2014!!!!!!!!!!

What is parenthood like? SO TRUE. [HT Andrew]

I'm sure you saw the click-baity headline about the CEO who cut his own salary to raise the salaries of his employees to at least $70k each. I was sure there was a catch...but no, he really did.

Lebanon Shot Twice - photos during the civil war and now.

This is what our kids' school lunches look like. [HT Andrew]

This couple kept it a secret that they were having twins, and then filmed everyone's reactions when they saw the babies for the first time.

I loved seeing the kids in action at this awesome kindergarten in Kyoto!

I meant to share this last week - Dark Lord Funk You Up. Your kids will want to watch it on an endless loop, if they're like mine. [HT Jeremy]

My friend Liz is going to Botswana to record women's oral histories. GoFundHer, please.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Other stuff we did in Sri Lanka

We went to church. The girls made me come with them to Primary (they sometimes hate it when mom and dad throw them into weird social situations in foreign countries) but I was happy to be there. I just sat in the back and smiled. There was one other American girl there - can you believe it? Also, can you believe that she lives directly across the street - not 25 meters - away from the hotel we were staying in? We went to her house for Easter dinner that night. The missionaries were there, too. It has been a long time since I've seen missionaries and it was fun to share a meal with them. They're Sri Lankan. They ate with their hands. But they spoke perfect young-American-man English thanks to the American companions they had in the Philippines.

We played at the beach and drew quite the crowd. These people just stood there and watched our kids play. Sterling had his own audience a little ways away.

We visited the Isurumuniya rock temple, with its accompanying stupa. You can't wear your shoes in these holy places and aye caramba, was the ground hot! I'm so glad I happened to read in passing the advice to bring socks with you to the sites. That saved us blisters on the bottom of our feet.

I keep looking at this picture and thinking it must be fake, but it isn't. I was there. I walked a mile in stocking feet to see it. It's Ruwanwelisseya Dagoba.


I wasn't brave enough to take an obvious photo, though I don't think they would have minded - these pilgrims (?) were all dressed up and carrying a new sash to the stupa to wrap around it. I really wish I understood these things (this religion - Buddhism) more.

We admired another stupa (Jethawanarayama) from afar, since the admission ticket was steep and we wanted to get to Mihintale.

We rode an elephant. The kids were sometimes terrified, sometimes thrilled. Sterling and Jeremy got off after about 15 minutes because baby was just too nervous. Magdalena fed the elephant some bananas. It was fun, but not as amazing as I thought it would be.

I took this picture of Sterling outside our elephant hotel and it is one of my favorites.

We rode a tuk-tuk to our driver's house (like, our driver was home with the van, but he knew our kids wanted to ride a tuk-tuk, so he sent his friend to pick us up in one. Awesome). Magdalena got in that thing like it was what she's been waiting for her whole life.

We hung out at our driver's house for a while and ate some food. The girls got to see how Sri Lankan kids live.

Somebody (or two) could not get enough of the elephants. It was pretty special.

We went to the beach again. I think these were Sterling's happiest moments. Finally not confined in a van or being kept from jumping off ledges into elephant-infested waters.

Two notes, without pictures:

On the airplane on the way home, a monk (in one of those gorgeous saffron-orange robes) sat down in the seat in front of me. He turned around and greeted Sterling with a handshake. Probably the coolest thing to happen to Sterling in his lifetime.

Also on the airplane, as people were boarding, a little girl walked by our row and saw Miriam and Magdalena dressed in matching outfits (I do this for convenience when traveling so they're easier to keep track of). She got the most delighted look on her face and exclaimed, "What?!?!?! TWINS!!!!!" We've been quoting her all week. And no, I didn't have the heart to correct her (she'd moved on down the aisle anyway).

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