Each time a milestone passes, it offers a brief but pointed reminder of our mortality and the all-too rapid passage of time. We had two this month: the ninth anniversary of the day we snuck out on an extended lunch break to get married in a Chicago courthouse and our son’s sixth birthday.
Posts tagged ‘kids’
Arriving in Ha Long after spending the better part of a week in rural Vietnam is a bit of a shock to the senses. Parts of the city along Vietnam’s most famous bay feel like they have been transplanted from Europe; the French architectural influence is unmistakable. And whereas we hardly saw a soul in Pu Luong, at the Ha Long boat terminal we found an assembly line-like tourist infrastructure designed to process thousands of visitors per day. Six million foreigners visit Ha Long Bay each year, making it far and away Vietnam’s top tourist attraction.
The principal challenge with touristing in Vietnam – aside from the arcane visa process – is rooted in the country’s geography. Vietnam is long and narrow – it is barely thirty miles wide at its narrowest point, but extends for more than one thousand miles from north to south. The country’s karst formations, long coastline, innumerable caves, and multitude of rivers ensure that there are gorgeous places to visit throughout. Stringing Vietnam’s top highlights into one trip is difficult, however, as doing so requires a lot of driving in between destinations.
Another weekend, another trip to Rizal. Last time, we got a bunch of our friends together for an adults-only playscape adventure. This time, we planned the outing with our kids’ social circle in mind, joining forces with another family for a weekend getaway in the foothills of Mt. Purro.
We didn’t quite know what to expect in Vietnam, but Trang An – the first place we visited after transferring from Pu Luong to Ninh Binh – matched to a tee the expectations we did not realize we had been harboring. After spending a few days off the beaten path in rural Vietnam, Trang An – a UNESCO World Heritage complex of caves, water canals, and temples – was a sight to behold.
The struggles we faced in Japan were very much on our minds in planning our Vietnam itinerary. The kids were hard to contain in Japan’s big cities, so we scheduled our Vietnam trip to focus on rural landscapes and natural exploration. We also got in touch with a colleague of S’s who is serving in Hanoi. Her kids are a little order than ours, but we figured having playmates might cushion the blow of landing in a new, unfamiliar country, so we arranged to spend our first weekend in Vietnam together in Pu Luong.
The last couple of months, Junebug has hit the sweet spot of toddler babble, thanks in no small part to her weekly speech therapy lessons. After being almost completely non-verbal at age two, Junebug has become a regular chatterbox just six months later. Although we understand her quite well, her speech remains muddled, as she mixes up letters, speaks in incomplete sentences, and trips over herself in her exuberance to articulate her thoughts. The result is an immensely adorable toddler diction that makes us want to record every one of her monologues for posterity.
As an island nation that straddles five geological fault lines along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines endures far more than its fair share of natural disasters. Earthquakes, tropical storms of all stripes, and volcanic eruptions routinely exact a fearsome toll on the archipelago. On the upside, this is a uniquely beautiful country to call home for a few years and, in some ways, Manila has proved a far better posting than our previous assignments. The last couple of weeks in particular have underscored this dichotomy, as a volcano we hiked just a few months ago blanketed Manila with ash several days before we headed out to Palawan for a beach vacation with S’s visiting family.
The end of one year and the beginning of another tends to invite reflection. As Munchkin nears his sixth birthday and Junebug begins her second semester of preschool, we can’t help but marvel at how different our two kids are. Even as Junebug endeavors to follow in Munchkin’s every step, she has developed a personality so distinctly her own that oftentimes it feels that our kids are mirror twins, their characters polar opposites of each other.