Camping...sort of


Finally the day arrived (after weeks of asking, how long?) for us to leave for a short break. We were longing to get out of the hot, dusty city and find some cool greenness. A five and half hour trip north (usually 2 1/2 hours, but they are redoing the roads...the WHOLE way) took us to the perfect spot. We aren't really campers, so these rustic cabins were probably as close as we'll ever get to the tent thing.

Close friends joined us and the kids and adults alike had a blast. Here's a peek into our time away:

The car is packed, everything is finally ready and ... delay. We can't find Spangle, the bear in Sophie's arms. After an intensive 10 minute search Spangle was found and off we went! Hooray!

I am not kidding. Family pictures are a sort of strange torture for us. Benjamin is our current problem child...he has decided he hates cameras.

Sophie in the river bed (like the one we had to cross to get to the campground)...notice the herd of cattle in the background?

Building a rock bridge in the river (one of many started and never finished)

See-sawing with Daddy

Roasting marshmellows (thanks to a package from Georgia that arrived just in time!)

Partners in Crime. The girls faithfully carried their walking sticks everywhere they went. It was the cutest thing!

John wrote the girls names (yes, there were two Sophies) on their sticks so they could keep track of them. We were sad to say good bye to these inanimate objects.

End of vacation and we still love each other (smile)

I won't tell you all the trouble this little dynamo got himself into during the time in the woods, but needless to say, he fell asleep about five minutes into our trip home.

Dear Patient Readers (and not-so-patient readers)

Yes, we are still alive and well.

No, we haven't fallen into some deep dark hole, nor is our adopted country in a state of war and all communications lines have been cut for three plus months (although never say never in this part of the world).

No explanations or excuses, but if you want to catch up on our last three months, I'll back date some entries to bring you up to speed...all 5 of you who actually read this!

Coming soon...our pseudo-camping experience. This might be delayed because it is Olympics time, afterall, and we might have trouble tearing ourselves away from the Judo, which is the only thing we seem to find coverage of in our little corner of the world.

So What's The Big Deal About McDonalds?


I certainly don't want to put McDonald's down in any way, but if we were living in the States or Canada it would definitely not be our first choice in fast food. I, personally, am a Chic-Fil-A / Wendy's kind of girl, while Sophie and John are really into Swiss Chalet (which sort of qualifies as Fast Food). Annie is pretty much into French Fries, so she hardly qualifies as a connoisseur, and sweet little Benjamin has no basis for comparison, coming here at all of three months of age.

Yes, this is all leading somewhere. Here, in the land of our adoption, which (again) I wouldn't want to dis in any way (see, here is me, avoiding all lawsuits), there is ONLY McDonalds. Yes, sad, but true. No Pizza Hut or KFC (I thought they were EVERYWHERE?!). No Burger King or Arbys. Most definitely no Chic-Fil-A or Zaxby's (those beloved Southern chains don't even make it north of the Mason Dixon very often).

So McDonalds has become the icon of North America in our midst. Nationals use it as the local hang out of choice, nursing a cup of tea or small french fries for hours so they can see and be seen. Ex-pats (ex-patriots, aka people not from here) go there for a taste of home and modern play ground equipment. There are four McDonalds in our city, but only one with superior playground equipment. We go there maybe 10 time a year, but the scads of other times we drive by the kids say, in unision, in their most apallingly annoying whiny voices (you know the voices), "Why can't we stop and play?" Already, by the very way in which they pose the question, they know the answer will be "NO"; and yet, they cannot help but ask, its an intrinsic reaction. Pavlov's dog has nothing on the Cook kids.

So when John's class wanted to have an end of class get-together and invite our kids, there really was only one logical choice...McDonalds by the soccer stadium. What unfolded provides some typical examples of life and interactions in this place we call home.

It all started out fine. Kids playing. Kids snacking on Muffins. Adults interacting in English. Really a classic example of what we do here and how we build relationships.

Next comes the gift giving and receiving thereof. This also (without fail) happens everytime we invite nationals to do something with us...they bring stuff for our kids. This is a lovely gesture, but it has taken some training on our part to get our kids to not be rude. Sophie, the blunt one, when we first came would say things like "I don't like that", "I already have one", or "I don't eat chocolate". She has since learned to accept things with a smile, a thank-you, and one would hope, a grateful heart. Annie is a bit easier. Usually the gifts for the girls are very frilly, flashy hair adornments. Nothing could suit her better. Thus she finds herself the official gift-receiving-Ambassador of the Cook Family. Her winning smile and intentionally coy ways always win them over.
Then comes the sad conclusion to our story. It really was a perfect storm. Class meets in the morning, so that is when this little shindig is to meet. Unfortunately that is Benjamin's routine naptime. You know during the old TV show Mission Impossible when after they had listened to their tape and received their instructions the voice would say, "This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds", well Benjamin should have come with a similar recording saying "If this child doesn't nap at the appropriate time, he will cry, he will be inconsolable, and most likely, you (his parents) will be embarrassed." Witness above, a sweet student of John's (all she wants is a picture, for goodness sake) wrestling with our little cuddly boy.
All said the outing was a success. Benjamin later napped. Life returned to normal. And now we should be able to, in good conscience, ignore the apallingly annoying whiny voices (you know the voices), saying "Why can't we stop and play?" for at least another six weeks.