After eleven days, four countries, and some 20,000 miles, Tawn and I touched down at Suvarnabhumi International Airport (thankfully, not at Don Mueang, which reopened Sunday to domestic traffic – funny controversy brewing here over the “best” Anglicisation of the Thai name “Mueang”) at about 10:15 Tuesday evening.
Picking up where I left off in the last entry, on Saturday we had a combined birthday party for my niece Emily and my maternal grandmother. By this point most of our errands were run but I still had to go to the bank to deposit a few checks, so I asked Emily if she wanted to go with me and stop for hot chocolate on the way. So she and I stopped at Starbucks, enjoyed cocoa as I read some books to her.
Emily had a friend’s birthday party to attend Saturday afternoon so by the time her party began she was already in a crabby mood. I find it fascinating to compare the personality of my two nieces, and to also compare their personalities as young children to the personalities of their parents at the same age.
Emily is, without a doubt, proof of the principle of karma: her personality is a mirror of her mother’s at the same age and must be some sort of retribution for whatever aggravations she provided our parents. She often cuts off her nose to spite her face and seems to be obstinate just for the sake of being obstinate. Let me be clear, she’s a wonderful child and I leave her dearly despite the melt downs and moments of drama queen-ness. She does make things so much harder for herself than need be.
After dinner – a pizza party where I made four different types of pizza from scratch including a pepperoni and black olive special order for Emily that elicited a refusal to eat it when she saw another pizza coming out of the oven with mushrooms on it – we went to the living room to open presents.
For the past two years, pretty much as long as Emily has been able to talk, she has been fascinated with the jade that I wear around my neck. The whole time, she’s told me that she wants one but in yellow, her favorite color. So before this trip Tawn and I purchased a yellow jade pendant for her to wear. Even the morning of her party, she had admired my jade and reiterated that she wanted a yellow one.
So I was a little surprised when, upon opening the jade and being told what it was, she was disinterested in it and literally tossed it aside. Before long, it was time for a special “mother-daughter conference” (above right) and Jennifer spelled out her expectations for her daughter’s behavior, under threat of present opening coming to a rapid conclusion.
In true drama queen style, the sober mood immediately gave way to joy once a bouncy ball was unwrapped, proving to be the favorite gift of the evening, right. This gave way to more unhappiness a few minutes later around some other issue.
Thankfully, we got the presents unwrapped with a minimum of tears and were able to move on to cake, a pineapple-coconut freezer cake that is one of grandmother’s specialties. If I had a larger refrigerator I’d make it hear as it is really an excellent, moist cake. Maybe once we buy a condo I can buy a full sized refrigerator.
Now we couldn’t get a good picture with the first round of candle blowing-out, so I actually relit the candles so we could try a second time, producing this much better result. I think it is hilarious how Tawn is looking at the camera!
Dinner ended early, by about 8:30. Between having grandparents and young children – plus being in the American midwest – dinner is an early phenomenon. Takes some getting used to as back in Khrungthep, Tawn and I rarely start dinner before eight.
We spent a few hours finishing our packing, carefully balancing the heavy items so none of the four bags to be checked in would push the weight limits. This was challenging because much of the things we were bringing back were weighty: magazines, bulk nuts and dried fruit, and some cookware. Finally, I got to bed about 11, knowing that I’d have to wake up by 3:30 in order to get to the airport for our 6:00 am flight.
As happens way too often, the first flight out of Kansas City was delayed. This time due to a mechanical problem on the regional jet, but there seems to frequently be an issue with the first flights: late arrival the night before of the crew, weather delays, flow control into Chicago, etc. Our 6:00 was canceled and we were rebooked on the 7:47, giving us a 10-minute connection time in Chicago. The agent rebooked us on the later connecting flight to Toronto, meaning that instead of arriving at 11:30 am we would arrive at 4:45 pm.
Thankfully, we arrived in Chicago a few minutes early and our original Toronto flight was 20 minutes delayed. Since our bags were still tagged for the early flight, we were able to get on board and even with the delay arrived in Toronto by noon!
Unfortunately, I didn’t make sure I had Alan’s mobile phone number with me. The only number I had was his home number and I already knew he’d be out and about. In the meantime, though, we met up with an airliners.net member with whom I’ve been conversing for a year or so, Kevin. This being Tawn’s first trip to Canada, we met up at Tim Hortons, the ubiquitous coffee and doughnut fast food chain that some consider iconically Canadian. In addition to having really good coffee and doughnuts, they have decent sandwiches, chili and soups.
Not having success reaching Alan, we walked around the Bloor and Yonge area, one of the main shopping areas of downtown Toronto.
Not appropriately dressed for the weather, we were a bit chilly and found our way indoors whenever we could.
Thankfully, Alan made it home by 4:00 and we were just around the corner from his well-located house so walked over. The cousin of my former roommate and high school friend Anita, Alan is the gay architect/designer brother Tawn and I never had. Alan’s brother, Patrick, and his wife Daniella just celebrated the first birthday of their daughter Nathalie, so we had a chance to see her for the first time. Unfortunately she was a bit under the weather so I didn’t get a picture. Below, Tawn stops at a bakery-cafe to read the paper.
Above left: posing in Alan’s living room with the unfinished-yet-functional fireplace. Above right: Themes in brown – Tawn and Dexter sit on the back porch. Below left: the Royal Ontario Museum nears completion of its angular, Daniel Libeskind-designed addition. Libeskind designed the master plan for the World Trade Center’s reconstruction. Below right: dinner at Bistro Tournesol on Dupont Street.
Toronto has lots of fantastic little neighborhoods, lined with shops, restaurants, and theatres. Toronto and Melbourne remind me of each other in various ways. Below, despite it being a Sunday evening there were crowds outside the Royal Cinema on College Street for the 10th Cinefranco celebration of international francophone cinema.
While only a few hours long, we really enjoyed catching up with Alan. Tawn decided that Toronto is on his list of places he would live in the future. Good on you, Canada.
Monday morning we were out at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for our nonstop flight to Hong Kong. The new airport terminal (number one) is a very nice facility with lots of space and light and a roof that suggests the wings of a bird. There is also a lot of public art, including the sculpture below.
It is a dynamic piece titled Tilted Spheres by sculptor Richard Serra. It is so large that it had to be installed first and then the terminal was literally built around it. The link above shows a picture of the sculpture sitting forelornely amid beams in the early stages of construction of the terminal. More information on the artist is here. A detail that cannot be seen in these pictures is that the sheets of metal have been covered with graffiti by airport visitors. It wasn’t until I did some research that I discovered this article from two days ago in the Toronto Star that clarified that this graffiti was not intentionally part of the sculpture.
I have to confess, I thought the graffiti was a part of the sculpture!
Our flight to Hong Kong was aboard Air Canada’s flagship Airbus A340-500. This is a 15-hour flight, similar in stature to Singapore Airlines and THAI Airways’ 17-hour nonstops to New York from Singapore and Bangkok, respectively. The plane, painted a light powdery green that matched Toronto’s weather quite effectively, was comfortable enough with on-demand video and two meal and two snack services. Another inch or two of leg room would be nice, but I was determined not to sleep so that I would be able to sleep once I arrived in Khrungthep.
Fifteen hours provided me with plenty of time to kill. Despite the surprisingly limited selection of movies, I caught up on several including Denzel Washington’s psychological thriller Deja Vu and Aardman Animation’s (creators of the Wallace and Gromit series) Flushed Away.
There was also an electrical outlet in the seatback, so I was able to get about six hours of work done. An internet connection would have been even better but, c’mon, what should I expect? In the old days you got a movie on the main screen (well, still current days on United as some other carriers) and these days you can have on-demand audio and video. Here’s a funny self-portrait taken by the light of my laptop somewhere over the north pole.
We arrived in Hong Kong at 3:00 in the afternoon, Tuesday. Such an efficient airport! We were through immigration in a hurry on aboard the Airport Express for a 24-minute ride to Central Station on Hong Kong Island. There we met up with Tehlin, a university classmate of mine, and her 3-year old son Samuel and 3-month old daughter Isabel. Tehlin’s husband Chris was able to join us a bit later.
It was very nice to visit with them but I totally forgot to give her a Thai silk place setting that I had specifically brought with me on the trip because I knew I’d be seeing her! It went almost 20,000 miles only to be forgotten as we left the Pret a Manger shop at the IFC mall.
Oh, well. Guess we’ll have to go back to Hong Kong soon. Not a bad idea since Allan and Valerie are in Guangzhou from Montreal to study Mandarin. Since they’ll be there until June, maybe a trip back to Hong Kong is in the works.
Now I’m back home. Tawn, unfortunately, had to head off to Beijing on business with his boss. Call time for the taxi: 6:30. Poor thing, he’ll be exhausted tonight.