Monday, February 27, 2012

Pak Kret Babies Home

Shortly after our arrival in Bangkok, I began to look into the different opportunities available to do volunteer work in the local community.  I did a lot of volunteer work in Miami but it was limited to the kids' schools - PTA secretary, school advisory council, fundraising events, class functions, etc.   I left Miami totally burnt out on school volunteerism and pledged that, at least for our first year here, I would help out only a few times at ISB and that would be the extent of my involvement in the school.  I really wanted to find an opportunity to do hands on work and be of direct help to the Thai community.

Well, I am so happy as I have found the PERFECT place for me to volunteer!  The Pak Kret Babies Home.  This Home (I hate to call it an orphanage) is located less than 10 minutes from Nichada and I will be going 2 or 3 times a week for 2 hours each time to "mother" an abandoned baby.  There are 300 babies/toddlers/children living at the Home, ranging in age from newborn (and I really mean newborn) to 5 years.  Right after we moved here, I heard about the Home from a friend who has volunteered there for almost 1 1/2 years.  She has cared for the same little boy since he was a few weeks old and he is now quite an active and happy toddler!  Last September, I was going to go with her and see what it was all about.  However, first there was a stomach virus spreading through the Home so I couldn't go.  Then, the babies had to be evacuated because of the flooding so I couldn't go.  Then it was Christmas, yada yada yada... it just never happened.  Well, today it did and it was such a great experience.  I cannot wait to go back on Friday (if not sooner!).  

The Home is funded by the King and members of the Royal Family do visit often so I think the Home gets a good deal of exposure (and maybe more donations) from that connection.  Although there are a lot of babies/toddlers living at the Home, they are obviously very well-cared for. All of the children I saw this morning were clean and nicely dressed. The grounds and the "houses" (similar to dormitories) where the children live are immaculate - nothing fancy but neat and maintained.  We passed several areas with nice play/climbing equipment, tricycles, little riding toys, etc.  The children that we saw were very happy and they loved to touch our white skin!  A lot of women from the Ex-Pat community volunteer at the Home - quite a few from Nichada but also a large group from downtown.  The British Women's Club runs a shuttle van on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to bring the volunteers from downtown to the Home.   Caitlynne went to the Home a few weeks ago with a friend and her friend's mother who is regular volunteer there.  She loved playing with the babies and feeding them so I am sure she will come with me to help when she can!    

This morning, my friend first gave me a little tour of the Home and then we went to find a baby for me. The process was a little weird.  We walked up to a screened window (almost like the take out window at Dairy Queen) and my friend motioned to the nanny that I wanted a baby.  The nanny randomly selected a baby from one of the cribs, changed him and then handed him to me along with a bottle.  She gave the baby a peck on the cheek and off we went.  No questions asked and I did not have to show one piece of identification!  

The little boy I was given is named Semit and I will care for him each time I visit.  I did tear up when we went to the "house" where he lives.  There must have been thirty cribs in the room and each crib had a baby in it.  While the caregivers definitely had things under control (not one baby was crying or fussing), it made me so sad to know that not every baby gets held or has significant attention paid to him/her each day.      

My best guess is that Semit is about 8 months old but I really can't say for sure.  Most of the babies at the Home are behind quite a bit developmentally so it is hard to use the typical milestones in an effort to guess their ages.  Semit has his first tooth coming in and he was quite happy to sit and chomp on my fingers for a while.  I forgot how much drool a teething baby can produce!  He was scooting a little and I expect it won't be too long before he is crawling.  He certainly wanted to get moving!  He was very interested in the toys I brought to him and we had a lot of fun looking in the mirror and making faces at each other.  He was content just to sit on my lap while I patted his belly.  The volunteers and their babies meet up in a large room and we all spent about two hours together in there.  There are soft mats on the floor and lots of toys and books available to the toddlers and babies.  There is a separate room with a bathtub and the Home encourages us to give the babies baths and play with them in the water a little.  A few of the other volunteers did bathe their babies but I didn't want to push it on the first day!  It has been a LONG time since I have taken care of a newborn and I want to take things slowly and make sure that Semit is comfortable with me.  I don't think I have too much to worry about though because he was smiling a lot (never cried or fussed) and even fell asleep on my lap for about 15 minutes.  Giving the babies a bottle, diaper changing, etc. are all part of the package too.   

I was conflicted about "choosing" a single baby to care for as opposed to just mothering a different baby on each visit.  However, the other volunteers told me that caring only for Semit will be a great benefit to him and I will see how he grows and thrives with my visits and the bonding we do.  I am scheduled to visit again on Friday but I have nothing planned for Wednesday and Thursday mornings so I might go one of those days as well.

Have a great Monday! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Now that the house is painted, I have moved on to my next "project" - having drapes made for the family room and the dining room.  The existing window treatments (the same on every window in our home) are off-white drapes with sheers. They aren't all that bad but the windows look very boring and plain to me now that the house is painted. Having the drapes made for only the family and dining rooms will have a big impact as you can see one or both of these rooms from almost everywhere on the first floor. The family room has one large window as well as sliding glass doors. The dining room just has one large window.  I would never think about doing anything with the four windows in the formal living room as they are floor to ceiling and are 20+ feet high.  I could have drapes made for our office/tv/exercise room but we close the door to that room when guests are over so no need to spiff it up. 

As you might expect, I had a very good idea of what I wanted for each room.  Many years ago, a dining room featured in an interior design magazine caught my eye and I saved the page for "some day". The room was painted the same terracotta color as ours now is and the homeowner had chosen drapes with a russet/gold/green large floral pattern on a black background.  It was a great look and I wanted to do something similar in our dining room.

Edited To Add - You can see my inspiration for yourself (the two images on the left in the photo below)! I was able to take the page from my "design ideas" notebook, scan it and then upload to the blog.  Technology never ceases to amaze me!
I have been looking for drapery fabric in Bangkok but I checked online and there didn't seem to be much of a price difference between the cost of fabrics here and what I could have shipped to me from the U.S.  All of my "savings" will be in the labor costs to make the drapes.  I also think there is a better selection of fabric available online and I am somewhat familiar with the manufacturers & the quality of fabrics so I know what I would be getting.  

I was so excited when I found this tapestry fabric for the dining room within the first hour of my online search on Monday morning.  I never imagined it would be this easy! 
I loved the pattern & the colors and it was EXACTLY what I had in mind.  It was a bit expensive but I did a quick estimate and thought I would only need about 10 yards for the dining room so I could make it work.  Thank goodness I got sidetracked with something else and did not order the fabric at that time!  Late Monday afternoon, the seamstress emailed me the fabric requirements and she needed 18 yards of fabric for the dining room.  Whoa Nellie!  That extra amount of fabric very quickly put this selection WAY out of my budget and it was back to the drawing board.  I spent too many hours this week searching for fabrics and comparing prices on different websites before I finally came up with these three alternatives yesterday afternoon:

I ended up ruling "C" out because it was a very heavy fabric and seemed more suitable to upholstery rather than drapery.  I went back and forth for HOURS between the other two fabrics before I finally decided on "B".  I thought the floral pattern was larger and brighter than "A's" and there was less of the black background so it wouldn't be as dark.

Choosing fabric for the family room was much harder and I still haven't made a final selection.  I want a colorful floral pattern on a cream/ivory/light tan background but I don't have a specific "look" in mind. The window/sliding glass doors in the family room open to the side & back yards with a lot of bright green foliage (banana trees, birds of paradise plants and palm trees) visible from the room.  I want a color and pattern to complement all of that vivid tropical growth and to bring the view of flora into the house. Does that make sense? As far as color selection, the rug in the family room has pretty much every color in it.  To me, the navy blue and cranberry seem to dominate so any pattern I choose must have shades of those colors in it. 
I am having a REALLY hard time finding fabrics/patterns/colors that I like and are within my price range.  There are a lot of ugly floral fabrics out there.  I narrowed it down to these fabrics this morning...

I saw "F" on a website that I first looked at this morning and knew that was THE fabric I wanted for the drapes. The colors (blue, berry, gold and green) were perfect, the pattern was fun and the price was right.  Knowing how much I needed (34 yards), I tried to order the fabric only to find it has been discontinued.  Just my luck.  If I HAD to choose today, I think my selection would be either "A" or "D". There is just something "off" with each of the other choices - either the patterns are too small or too big, the colors are not right, etc.  

I ordered the fabric for the dining room drapes and the seamstress can work on those while I make up my mind about the family room fabric.  Since there is no rush on having the drapes made, I think I will keep looking through magazines, design books and on Pinterest for ideas.  I might even wait and look for fabric when I am back in the U.S. for the summer.  I will keep you posted.

Have a great Friday! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three Hundred Miles

This morning I ran mile 300 in my transcontinental run!  

I was only planning to run 5 miles today but when I saw that I was at mile 294 on the run, how could I NOT run the extra mile to make it an even 300?!? I don't think "Two Hundred Ninety Nine Miles" would have been as impressive a post title. 

This is what I "saw" at mile 300 (1.94 mi to Buchanan, VA, Botetourt County)...
The black dot in the photo below shows exactly where I am in Virginia.  Not too far from Blacksburg and Virginia Tech!   
The photo below shows the rest of my route through Virginia.  I was a little discouraged when I realized this morning that I am not even halfway through Virginia!  The way this route is mapped, the total distance through the Commonwealth is 737.7 miles.  My goal might be to reach the Virginia-Kentucky border before we leave to go back to the U.S. for the summer.  
And, if I thought it discouraging that I have been running for almost three months and have not even gone through one state, just look at where I am in the whole scheme of things...
Only 3,763 miles to go!

The last few mornings have been somewhat cool (76 - 78 degrees) and not as humid (65%) so perfect (for Bangkok) running weather.  I am just dreading what March and April will be like.  All  we hear about is how horribly hot and humid it is during those months.  I thought July and August were pretty bad when we first arrived but, apparently, March and April are much worse.  

Have a great Tuesday evening! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Back Together Again

Beware... lots and lots of photos to follow!  I spent most of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning organizing the house and putting everything back in its proper place. Last night and this morning, I went a little crazy with the camera!  I tried to post these photos so you can get a feel for what the house looks like as you enter through the front door, turn left into the living room, and then move through the family room, dining room, kitchen and hallway areas before ending up at the front door again. 

The front door & entry way.  Every time the doorbell rings, why does the dog think it is for him?!?
I love how the new chest looks with the gold paint!
The Embassy is closed today to celebrate President's Day and Kevin is all set for a round of golf.
Standing in the entry way and looking into the living room.
Standing in the living room and looking into the family room.
On the left side of the photo below, you can see through the family room and into the dining room.  On the right side of the photo, is a short hallway that leads to the staircase as well as into the dining room.
Standing in the family room and looking up at the staircase.
Moving into the family room from the living room...
Standing in the family room and looking into the dining room.
Standing at the entrance of the dining room and looking into the family room.
Standing in the family room and looking into the dining room.  
Dog Number One.
Dog Number Two.
The hurricane vases in the photo below are filled with shells that we have collected from beaches all over the world...
The picture in the photograph below is very special to our family.  Many years ago, my cousin, Patrick worked in the Peace Corps in the Cape Verde Islands.  My aunt went over to visit him and we sent some art supplies with her to give to the children in the village. After she returned, my aunt gave us this picture of one of the children coloring. When we first received the picture, the kids (who were probably about 5 and 6 at the time) were VERY anxious about the child missing her shoe.  EVERY time they looked at the picture, they would ask me, "why she doesn't she have a shoe? what happened to her shoe? does she know that she is missing her shoe?"  The questions never stopped.  
Moving from the family room into the dining room & kitchen area.
Flowers from the garden.
Standing in the dining room and looking into the kitchen.
The area in the photo below is near the dining room & kitchen and right outside of our pantry.  It is a pretty good sized spot and I have been trying to figure out what to do with it.  This is what I came up with for now.
The hallway in the photo below leads from the dining room area to the front door, completing the "circle" of the first floor.
The photograph below is of Mount Sonder in the Northern Territory of Australia and was a farewell gift from our good friends, Mark and Cate in Alice Springs.
The quilted wall hanging of Australian flora and fauna in the photo below was a gift from our friends, Dan and Amy.  Dan and Kevin worked together for many years (long before we were even married) and then Dan worked at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra while we were in Alice Springs.  It was fun to occasionally see them (and their two daughters) while we were Down Under.  Amy was (is) an AMAZING quilter!  
So, there you have it!  I did have the staircase and the upstairs hallways painted but I will have to post those photos another time. My arm is numb from working on the computer for so long!

Have a great Monday!