Monday, December 31, 2012

and the saga continues

The morning dawned with low hanging, grey clouds. Rain fell from the sky and the day seemed to get started much slower than previous ones. Similar to the weather, our night also took a turn for the worse as Sage moaned and groaned all through the night. Sleeping hardly more than 10 minutes at a time, she was miserable. A low-grade fever kept spiking and she was covered in sweat. Xian, though fever-free, also boycotted large portions of prime-sleeping time as her nose ran with green gookety-gook. Our plans for the next day fell into place - a trip to yet another hospital.

That's it! The girls are getting tubes put into their ears when we get back to Taiwan. Months of infection and antibiotics are no fun.

By dusk, we were all starting to catch a case of cabin-fever so we decided to head out to the weekend night market. The girls loved it! Rock, hip hop and other tunes rang out from different stalls and Xian kept dancing away. Sage flirted with all passer-bys and enjoyed a few sips from Mom's drink.

Pink sweater shopping

Busy food stalls

Tamarind (I think....)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Phi Phi Island

In the span of a week, the girls have been on planes, a train, cars, vans, and a tuk-tuk. Why not a boat? We were picked up from the hotel early in the morning and headed down to the harbor. Our destination was the Phi Phi group of islands a little over 40 km from Phuket. The girls were great and alternated between taking naps, staring out the window and roaming around the boat. As a mountain girl, Sage proved herself to have quite the pair of sea legs as she shuffled along on the boat. The first stop on this tour was a cove of Phi Phi Leh.

The setting was absolutely stunning though this stop over did not include getting on land. The Sea Angel anchored inside the cove for people to swim. The girls were not ready for deep water so they watched the brightly colored fish surface as people fed them.

We also soaked in the scenery before the boat departed for a short trip to Phi Phi Don.

Lunch was served up and the girls shared a seat to eat (high chairs are not to be found in abundance here). They were a bit cranky from the heat of the day which translated into fussiness and a lower desire to eat. The two of us were starving from baby wrangling and were saved by a group of ladies we had met on the boat ride. The ladies were on vacation from Shanghai and took an interest in the girls. Xian met them by rubbernecking at the sound of Chinese being spoken. Her demeanor changed as her ears perked up to hear the familiar tones.

After lunch, it was time to explore the area and get the girls into some salt water. Xian once dipped her toes into the Taiwanese straight but this was Sage's first time. It seems as if the wide open expanse had her a little scared.

Back on the beach, the girls loved playing in the sand. Xian tried out her writing skills and wall building as Sage sampled the local variety of grit.

Thumbs up for fun in the sand!

More than one helping of sand went down the hatch.

Trying to cover Sage with sand.
In the end, it was time to get back on the boat and return to Phuket. Visions of island beauty remained with us...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Out and about in Phuket

300 baht. 300 baht. 300 baht. A baht is about the same as a Taiwanese New Dollar and 300 of these things are roughly worth $10. This 300 baht seems to be the going rate for getting about anywhere on this island though the cab drivers are willing to begin much higher in negotiations. We went a little bit north of Phuket town to the Butterfly garden. As the taxi drove up a lady appeared with glasses of a nice cool hibiscus-type beverage on this 30+ C day.

The first phase of the exhibit had all sorts of ground dwelling insects in tiny terrariums. Do they really need so little space?

Outside of the insect hall was a fish pond and the air swirled with butterflies. Nets hung from up high to keep the butterflies in and they zoomed a bit everywhere.

Krista and Xian feed the fish

The girls were especially interested in the fish. Maybe the day at the aquarium primed them to look for the sleek bodies in water. Butterflies can be difficult to catch on a photograph. Sage complained about the heat as I lined up to get this little guy. Each time, the wings closed into a resting position just as the shutter winked. Finally, we got a picture of the butterfly.

A special room to towards the back of the butterfly garden was labeled "Breeding Room". The doorway hung with chainlink to allow people to pass through but to keep the butterflies either in the room or out of it.

Inside the breeding room
After our visit, we decided to head into Phuket town for lunch and a wander about.  Ready for the 300 baht line, we encountered a surprise. Most of the tuk-tuks / cabs were already occupied by people visiting the garden. It is common for people to have the driver wait. Fortunately, the baby-card worked its magic and a nice lady at the reception desk called a cab to take us into town (for...300 baht of course).

The Portugese made Phuket one of their stopping points and the Old Town is influenced by their buildings. Only a few streets appear to be kept up and we had an enjoyable walk around before settling in for lunch.

Old Town Corner
Lunch was a little late and we are quickly coming to grips with extra limits put upon our travels by the two wee ones. They were tuckered out and hot. We're members of the Ergo-carrying army and 30 C temperatures makes for hot people. The girls wanted out of the carriers and home for the day. For 300 baht (I'm still not sure how that works: 300 baht got us to the butterfly museum which is north of Phuket and 600 baht was needed to return us), a tuk-tuk gladly provided wheels back to the swimming pool to cool everyone off.

First tuk-tuk ride

Thursday, December 27, 2012

to the Aquarium

The girls are adjusting to life away from home and we decided to head out to the Phuket Aquarium on Christmas day. It's relatively small but captivated the girls.

Would Sage be a good snack?

A bit more hesitant, Xian peers on.

The girls gravitated to the tanks with bright displays and really liked the ones that they could walk up to by themselves.

After being inside, the girls still had a lot of energy so we checked out the small nature trail adjacent to the aquarium. It wound along the ocean's edge though was tucked underneath mangroves and other coastal trees.

Sage is becoming a good little walker and often likes to hold on to someone's hand. We were amazed as to how long she walked on this trail.

In the meantime, Xian becomes more and more adventurous each day as she is now capable of going the direction her little heart desires. 

The ending point of the trail is a turtle hatchery and it was fun to watch the baby turtles frolic in the water.

After all that walking, the girls quickly began to crash. Sage fell fast asleep on Mom's back though Xian managed to keep awake likely knowing that her parents could not resist ice cream back at the aquarium. Her staying up award...a popsicle and she loved it!

Wow! A day of activity in the heat can surely set a couple of girls back. The went to bed early (even for them) but decided to wake up in the middle of the night to raise hell for many hours. Needless to say, the next day was a "nap day" as we hung out and recuperated. 

Christmas Celebrations

While in Phuket we are staying at a small family-run place that is a bit out of the way. While there are other travelers like ourselves, the overwhelming feel of the place is that there is one big family of Thai and westerners hanging out. From a little guy born about the same time as Xian and a couple of little girls who love playing with ours to lots of grandma-types, almost all age ranges are covered. Some people return each year so a holiday vibe was definitely in place. A living tree was decorated as a Christmas tree and the girls had lots of fun playing with the ornaments.

A few pics..
Xian and the tree

Sage with a couple of ornaments

Hey! Why did you drop it?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Journey

The flight from Taipei to Bangkok is only 3.5 hours yet our Taichung-to-Phuket jaunt took nearly 24 hours before we were settled into a hotel. Our flight was a late one in the day so the girls were able to participate in the dress rehearsal for their school's holiday performance of The Nutcracker. The costumes were quite...umm...adorable!

While is was great to see the girls before the rehearsal, our presence did not bode well for their performance - at least Xian's (Sage appeared to be in a drug-induced haze.).

After their show, we boogied back home leaving the girls at school. Bags needed to be packed and the house cleaned - Mamie-O and Ole Far are returning from Thailand with us! We got back to Paradise to fine the school completely quiet for nap time. After letting the girls get a bit more sleep, we snagged them and were off again to begin the journey.

Step 1: Cab ride to the High Speed Rail station.

Step 2: Take the HSR about 1 hour north and transfer to a bus for a short ride to the international airport. Note to travelers: Terminal 1 has been renovated and is now serving many airlines. We almost missed the stop in favor of the typical Terminal 2.

Step 3: Thai Airways is awesome! They spotted us coming in and as we did some last minute bag arrangements, a representative walked over and explained that they would put us in a special seating arrangement so that we could be together. This welcome was quite different from the summer flight to the States. As it turned out, we sat in the middle section of the plane. The section has four seats across so I guess there are enough oxygen masks for the two wee ones. We quickly passed security and were soon finding ways to use up time. Walks...

 Choosing a religion - Xian ran from them all.

Gazing at reflections

Step 4: Air Travel - the girls were quite good!

Step 5: Lay-over hotel in Bangkok. We arrived after midnight and the wake up call was set for 5:30 am.

Step 6: Crazy taxi ride from one Bangkok airport to the other.

Step 7: Air travel to Phuket. No special treatment this time. Just prior to take-off, a flight attendant moves Sage and I away from Krista and Xian.

Step 8: Taxi ride to hotel - yep, the girls are getting tired of transport and so are we.

Step 9: Arrival at hotel. Unfortunately, our room was not ready so we waited, and waited, and waited.

Step 10: Finally! A little relaxation in the pool.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Singing in the car

Practice, practice, practice. Car rides are the best place to get ready for the upcoming Holiday performance at school. Xian keeps the ride entertaining with her daily songs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Silence surrounding antibiotics

We’ve been so thankful that two healthy beautiful little girls spend their quality time with us. This past weekend though, all of that was drawn into question when we realized that our youngest, Sage, wasn’t hearing. We did the normal “try to scare the &*$# out of your daughter”: snap in her ear, play music next to her head, and sneak up on her making noises. None of it did any good-Sagey couldn’t hear us. First, we did what many people would do in this situation - we freaked out. We wracked our heads thinking back to see if there were any signs. Of course there were and yet we justified them, “Sagey is independent,” we would say, “She’s focused on something else,” or even, “She’s ignoring us on purpose.” There were many excuses we used over the past few months to explain why Sage wasn’t responding to us. However, with month 11 drawing nearer and nearer and Sage not acknowledging her name, we realized what Sage has probably known for a long time, she can’t hear. This was followed by long periods of silence, and then long conversations of what ifs, until a game plan was finally decided upon. We’d start at the beginning-a hearing test with a specialist and then move forward from there.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have a close friend whose husband is an ENT. He was available to see us on Sunday to check Sage’s hearing. Our fears were not laid to rest-Sagey’s ears were definitely not working properly. However from there, the good news was that she has a massive middle ear infection-well not one, but both ears are infected. This means that with medication (and a lot of it) her hearing will hopefully be restored. Sagey was put on an aggressive antibiotic with strict orders to take it four times a day for two weeks. Hopeful that all would be well, we returned home.

While giving Sagey the dreaded meds (she detests them) I noticed that we had enough meds for 3 days. Hmmm. . .perhaps there was some sort of miscommunication, I had thought she was supposed to take them for two weeks. I called and was told, yes, she was to take them for two weeks. Confusion really set in at this point. Finally, the dispensing of antibiotics in Taiwan was explained to me. The national insurance company allows you to pick up three days of antibiotics at a time. This means, I will have to return to the pharmacy to refill the antibiotics Sage needs every three days. I will not be provided an entire course at once. This also explains why every time I have been given antibiotics, the doctor reminds me I am supposed to take ALL of them. I thought the girls had been, now I’ve learned otherwise. Our poor darling daughters have had three different prescriptions, and yet have never finished a course because I was unaware of the Taiwanese laws regarding the dispensing of medication.

So, two weeks worth of medication, 5 trips to the pharmacy and hopefully, our daughter will hear again. Lesson learned-if you live in Taiwan the first prescription given is probably just the beginning of a long course and many trips to the doctor.