Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travel Toys

We got an awesome package from my mom today.  It was chock full of travel toys to keep Greg occupied on our trip home.  I’ve been trying to think how this is going to work, because our time of transition is going to be fairly long and drawn out.  It’s not just keeping Greg entertained on the airplane that has me thinking, but all the time before and between the flights as well.  This is what we are facing come July:

  • 2 nights before we leave PNG, we move to the guesthouse in Ukarumpa, so that we are able to do final cleaning of the house, washing linens, etc.  Most of Greg’s toys and books will be packed at this point.
  • Day 1 of travel – fly from Ukarumpa to Port Moresby.  Spend two nights in the guesthouse there.
  • Day 2 – at the guesthouse in Port Moresby.  Not a whole lot there to keep a little guy entertained.  Options for going “out on the town” and doing stuff are fairly limited.
  • Day 3 – Fly from Port Moresby to Brisbane, Australia – spend two nights in Brisbane
  • Day 4 – Brisbane – we haven’t yet booked a hotel yet for our stay in Brisbane, so I’m not sure if there will be a swimming pool.  However, we should be able to take Greg to a park or something to help pass the time.
  • Day 5/(6) – The long, long, longest day.  We cross the International Date Line between Fiji and Los Angeles, so we’ll get to have double the “fun” on the same calendar day.  First we have a 5-hour flight from Brisbane to Fiji.  A 5-hour layover in Fiji (we hope to visit a hotel across the street from the airport for a meal).  Then the 12-hour flight from Fiji to Los Angeles.  A few hours in LA, and then a final commuter flight up to Portland, where we will collapse into the arms of Brian’s family.  The grandparents can begin the spoiling of their only grandson, and Brian and I will try to get some sleep.
 So as you can see, we’re looking at 7 or 8 days of being in strange places without Greg having his usual means of entertainment.  I know that the novelty of it all will keep him somewhat occupied, and that a two-year-old can get a lot of mileage out simple things like singing songs, making faces, playing follow the leader and such.  But all the same, I’m very grateful for my mom’s package.  My mom is really good at keeping kids entertained, and she thought of some great small, portable and lightweight items to stock our travel arsenal.  Besides a multitude of tiny cars, animals and Lego figurines, she sent a mini Magna Doodle, books, pipe cleaners, Crayola Color Wonder markers (the kind that only write on the special paper and not on other things), silly putty, temporary tattoos, stickers, magnets, candy necklaces, and more.

Ok – now I have to go hide all of this stuff before Greg wakes up from his nap and wants to play with it.

Do you have any tips for traveling with toddlers that you’d like to share?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One Last Lae Trip

Brian and I decided that we should make one last family trip to Lae before furlough.  There is a good chance that Brian will go down again for work, but this trip would most likely be the last time that Greg and I accompanied him this field term.  We originally intended to go down for Mother’s Day weekend, but a landslide closed the highway that weekend and we had to postpone the trip.

Our last family trip to Lae, a few months ago, was not a fun experience.  Greg was at a very difficult age, and did not do well in the car, in stores, in restaurants, sleeping in a strange bed….basically we were just very glad to be home at the end of it!  Thus, I was a little apprehensive about this trip, but it actually turned out really well.  With a few minor exceptions, Greg behaved beautifully.  What a difference a few months can make!  (And it makes me feel a lot more confident about our upcoming furlough travels).

 We always enjoy the scenic, three-hour drive to Lae.  Ok... to be truthful, we always enjoy the scenic part.  The no-air-conditioning part isn't so much fun after you leave the highlands after the first hour.  And also the enjoyment depends on if the baby in the backseat is happy or not.  And if you have to use the bathroom it isn't so much fun either, because there are no rest stops or service stations along the way.  

The original excuse for making this trip is so that Brian could treat me to a nice Mother's Day dinner at the Lae International Hotel - one of the nicest restaurants in Lae.  The first night we were there was Sunday, and it turns out they don't do their buffet on Sundays.  We ordered this humungous pizza instead.  We ended up getting three meals out of it, so we didn't feel bad splurging and going back to do the buffet the next night.   Sorry - no photos of the buffet, but I assure you it met all expectations.

What is a trip to Lae without some shopping?  Lae is a port city, and is where we go to shop for the things we can't find anywhere else.  We visited the stationary store.  They didn't have any padded envelopes (can you imagine going into Office Depot and having them be completely out of padded envelopes, in any size?), but Greg got to try on this fancy PNG headband:

 And of course we had to stop at a few of Brian's stores.  Greg was pretty happy to run around in the yard of the Caterpillar dealer while dad was inside looking at parts catalogs:

Greg and I got nice and sweaty sitting in the car waiting for dad to finish up his business at another parts store...

...but we made up for it by swimming in the guesthouse pool when we returned from shopping.

Our truck does not have air conditioning, but thankfully the room at the guesthouse did.  We enjoyed lounging around and spending some quality time together as a family.  Brian and I would have liked to watch some TV, since we don't have that in Ukarumpa. but Greg had other ideas.  

We spent lots of time reading his books to him and singing songs - especially the Alphabet song.  Greg is obsessed with letters right now, and is actually getting very very good at identifying most of them.  Of course his favorite book is Dr. Seuss' ABCs.

And right before heading home we visited the Rainforest Habitat - a nice little conservation area with lots of birds and other animals native to Papua New Guinea.  

Our last trip here was nearly a year ago, when my mom was visiting.  We were hoping that Greg would get more out of it this time, be he was more interested in getting back in the truck and going for a ride.  The kid has a one-track mind when it comes to things with wheels.

A cassowary.  Greg's reaction:  to glance at the giant blue-headed bird and then turn and ask, "ride truck?"

And of course, their most famous attraction - a giant crocodile named Agro.  We're told that when they feed him chickens its pretty impressive to watch.  One of these days we'll have to try to visit during feeding time.

When we got home I had to deal with all of my new treasures- including this huge amount of frozen, shredded cheese that barely fit in my freezer:
Someone had given me a tip on where to buy wholesale shredded cheese for about $6.80 per pound (which is half the price of what we usually pay for cheese here), but you have to buy it in a 10-kilogram box (22lbs).  It's way more cheese than we can use in the 7 weeks we have left before furlough, but I knew I'd be able to sell it to others for the price that I bought it for.  Sure enough, I listed half of it on our for sale board in Ukarumpa this morning, and it was all sold within 5 minutes.

Here is one final photo for you - an advertisement on the side of the highway that I found amusing - "Buy two pigs and get one free!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This Week

Here are a few photos from this past week, to show what we’ve been up to.  One photo that I wish we had was of the yard sale we held on Saturday to get rid of some things before furlough.  People started lining up an hour before we were scheduled to open, and as the crowd grew bigger, they kept creeping closer too.  I remember looking at all those anxious people waiting and thinking “we really need a picture of this!”, but of course I didn’t have the camera handy.  A minute later Brian said “OK” and then people literally started running and grabbing things.  It was very overwhelming for the first half hour.  But the good news is that we sold nearly everything.  Now there is much less for me to pack before we leave!

 Here is Greg with his poro (friend) Mathias.  He’s the grandson of the lady who works in our yard.  He often comes to work with her because his mother passed away from a snake bite last year.  He and Greg love to hang out together.

Here is a photo from today – I’m at 22 weeks now.  This is also for my mother-in-law, who sent me the new clothes.  Thanks Sharon!

You know the great shop cleaning disaster from a few weeks ago?  Well here is some evidence that we did eventually get around to cleaning up the shop.  It looks so nice now!

And finally, here is a photo of sick Greg.  We’ve been a very sickly family this past week.  First Greg, then me.  Brian has been trying really hard to stay healthy, and so far only has a few minor cold symptoms.  When I caught Greg’s virus, all of a sudden I understood why he pretty much just wanted to sleep in our laps for two days straight.  It was a bad one!  On Monday just going to the market for produce about wiped me out.  I came home and collapsed on the bed.  I think Brian was worried to leave me at home to take care of Greg all day, but we managed.  Now Greg and I are feeling much better, with just a residual cough.