Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 200 Day Mark

We've been on the road for two hundred days! Since last time I wrote a collection of anecdotes, I think it's a great idea to write another. Excuse the lateness; I've been bad at keeping up with blog posts, as you may have noticed.

Let's recapitulate where we've been since Hong Kong.

 We've been in:

New Zealand
Australia (though I won't write anything about here in this post)

The trouble is that
I haven't been collecting quotes as often as I was. This is because after a while the interest level in taking them down disappeared a bit, because we didn't always have the iPod, and because it seems there's been less highly amusing quotes we'd remember.

But I'll try and give you a few funny occurences, and we'll see if someone will laugh or not.


We went to Angkor Wat. I'm not sure exactly what the entire temple complex is called— there are a great deal of them, suffice it to say, and they're sprawled all over the place. Access is by tuk-tuk, bicycle, or feet.

We went to Angkor Wat, the one that's on all the postcards of Cambodia, and looked around a bit. There are scenes from the Maha-bharata (in a way like the Hindu bible, and much larger than the Odyssey and Iliad put together.) I read it in India and parts of South China, I think (the dates have mixed up in my head). It's the story of the epic battle between Arjun and Karna, but there are seven brothers and a few sisters and I can't remember the extraordinary amount of  details properly. The actual story isn't very long, but the Maha-bhrata is full of information— how to behave, what to do, history of the gods, etc. It's been added to and added to and added to for centuries, and it's become a monolith of a book that very few people actually try to read. The story though, is fascinating.

We look around at all the bas-relief sculptures, the information, the Apsara dancers, taking pictures and walking through and sitting down on the terraces whenever we can. Sitting is a luxury. When we get to the tower, however, the one in the center that has many steps to get to the top and is very important, it's closed for cleaning.

We head back the next day. I've lent Ileana my blue shirt— she's sick of her purple one— and I'm wearing a crinkled green sleeveless top that's elegant and very pretty. It's a shock seeing Ileana in a bright color. She looks like a completely different person in bright blue. We're all wearing our skirts. It's easier this way. As we get into the loooong line that stretches back quite a while, we talk and think and look around at the building. And, as we're about to get to the cordoned-off section, the one with the signs as to what you're allowed to wear and not allowed to wear, a man lets the entire family through and tells me I can't go in.

"What?" I ask.

"Shirt no good."

Dad looks shocked.

Sleeveless shirts aren't allowed for what I'd call modesty reasons. You also can't take a shawl and cover yourself up with it. So I have to get out of line, and Ileana and Ioan and Dad and Mom start climbing up the steep steps.

I go and find a place to sit, facing the tower, and I start thinking about my own business. I'm completely certain that Dad will send Ileana down so we can switch shirts. I'm right. She comes down and says, a bit curtly, that "Dad says we have to change." She's holding Mom's green shawl.

"I know." I said, grinning. "We just have to find a place where we can change."

There's no bathroom anywhere on the facilities. And everything is open spaces. There are no doors… all you can do is find a deserted corridor to change in and hope no one walks by.

Thankfully, we find one pretty quickly. I take the green shirt off and wrap the shawl around myself— just in case someone walks past, we won't shock them out of their minds. Ileana takes the blue shirt off and tugs on the green one, and then, in some weird maneuver learned I don't know where, I manage to get the blue shirt on without exposing anything but my shoulders. It's a gift. I don't know where I got it. I hand her the shawl and then get in line.

It's only later I realize— we've probably broken a hundred thousand etiquette and respect rules… but there is absolutely no way that my father would ever be able to live with himself if he brought us all the way to Angkor Wat and I missed out on the top tower just because of a dress code. 


It was in Bangkok that I rediscovered a fantastic Mac application called Pencil. The awesome thing about this application is that it still functions in Lion, though it hasn't been updated in years, that it takes tablet pressure sensitivity, which GIMP doesn't— thus the harder you press on the tablet, the thicker the line comes out on the screen.

Pencil is an animation program, for making 'hand-drawn' animations. While I was using it, enjoying the pressure sensitivity, Ileana and Ioan peeked over my shoulder.

"What's that?"

"Animation program."


Ileana had her turn next. Ever since she was little, she's been able to take things down in a quarter of the time I can. Even if they have absolutely no correct anatomical proportions, they have a feel I'll never be able to get down. It comes out more in animation. She drew a little face, with two horns, made it blink a few times… and then it YAWNED. In fifteen minutes she drew this little thing that's moving and blinking and looking alive.

The next thing she drew was a an orca, above the surface of the water, diving down. As it dives, it releases bubbles of air on either side, and as it goes deeper it turns into a mermaid, which turns slowly into a pearl, which drops into an oyster at the bottom of the sea. And then, the oyster closes. When we told her it didn't look quite like an oyster, she said:

"I'm sorry, did I get a PhD in drawing oysters? No I did not."

Ioan, too, drew a picture. It seems to be a cell separating, turning into two blue eyes and a nose. The eyes open and turn into cups, which drop the two blue pupils down. The nose begins to drop too, and as the pupils fall they merge into a drop of water. The seed and water fall, past a tree branch, into the ground, and a small plant grows out of the ground. It's amazing.

I don't animate anything. I'm using it for drawing portraits, and I can't think of anything I'd like to animate.

The last thing Ileana drew (because everything else was 'just practice,') was the beginning of a short featuring our characters and Mr. G, a fat orange evil mastermind cat based on our Tae Kwon Do instructor (who is everything but fat, orange, and cat, but can definitely be an evil mastermind when he sets his mind to it). In this comic, Mr. G opens and accidentally slams a door, which triggers alarmed stares. I don't remember the rest of the short, but the point is that Ileana started drawing the beginning of this.

When she'd got him to open the door almost completely, she showed Ioan and me the animation so far.

"OHMYGOD it's so cute he's opening a door!" I exclaimed. I made her play it (as I did with all the other animations) at least ten times.

At the same time in Thailand, I'd started my February Toppler. In this week-long challenge, you try to read books based on a few prizes. I'd decided to try and get every single award, including one called Godfather, which requires finishing three previously-started books.

The books were The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri), The AEneid (Virgil), and The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas). In Bangkok, I was reading both the Comedy and the AEneid at the same time, switching whenever I couldn't stand either any longer. But mostly, I was focusing on finishing The Divine Comedy, since it was hardest.

Whenever I don't really like a book, or am bored with it, I start moving, tapping my foot, humming, singing, playing drums on my water bottle, etc. When someone is next to me and it's easy to talk, I talk: "This book is terrible." "He never gets to the point." Etc.

Finally, while I was reading the Inferno, I said, "This guy has good description, but he's boring as hell."

Ileana simply raised an eyebrow.

We reached Kho Tao, the place where we were supposed to learn to scuba dive. During the confined session— the really shallow area, less than 2 meters, where we'd learn all the techniques, Dad stopped Anna, our teacher, and said,

"This might be a really stupid question, but are any of these pieces of equipment supposed to fit or be comfortable?"

"Not on top of the water." Anna said.

"Oh!" Dad exclaimed, "Okay. I was worried."

We did the confinement exercises, swam back to the boat, and began taking off all the equipment— the Buoyancy Controlled Device (the vest), the mask, the snorkel, etc.

As Dad took off his BCD, they discovered one very tiny, yet important detail— it was malfunctioning-- his waist belt had come undone… in general, he had the only bad BCD on the entire boat (there were about thirty of us).

They tied a knot in the hose so they'd be able to remember which one needed to be sent off to be fixed, and we continued towards home.

The next day, of course…

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS VEST!" another student exclaimed, coming out of the water after only a minute.

There are geckos everywhere. They're small, harmless, and you usually hear them chirping at night. In Bottle Beach, where the three of us shared a small, wooden cabin, where we kept the windows open, we weren't very surprised to find there was a gecko in the house, somewhere around the trash can. It didn't bother us, of course. The gecko had manners, and it would never bother anyone who didn't want to be bothered.

Of course, no one can ask a gecko to stop exploring. I came in one day, turned on the light, and went to our bed to pull open the mosquito net so I could get in. We have to have mosquito nets, or we'd probably be more mosquito bites than actual skin. There, right on the opening of the mosquito net, was Sir Gecko.

I squeaked a bit. He was right on the opening, which meant that if I opened it wrong he'd crawl in. I didn't mind having him on the outside of the mosquito net, the problem was if he got inside. Then Ioan and I would be sharing the bed with a gecko, and sharing a bed with a gecko has never been on my bucket list.

I took Ileana's sketchbook, which was lying around, and began marshalling the gecko more to the left. When I thought it was far away enough, I opened the mosquito net and slid in.

So did Sir Gecko.

Now, this was a problem. I couldn't let him just stay, because then he'd disappear somewhere in the bed, and I'd wake up with gecko on my face. But I couldn't keep the mosquito net open enough to shake Sir Gecko out, because the windows were open for aeration purposes, and mosquitoes have some sort of radar that makes them zoom immediately to any available non-Sketolene-doused (organic insect repellent) surface. I already had about a thousand bites, and I didn't need many more. Needless to say, I wanted to keep the mosquito net closed.

Somehow, I managed to get Sir Gecko on the outside of the mosquito net, and for some reason the idea of the gecko on my face on the other side of mosquito netting didn't bother me. (Of course, thinking of it now makes me shudder)


Our first thought of Penang was that we'd spend a week here. It's a combination of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian, and it's an old-new place, full of things to see and look at and enjoy.

But we liked Bottle Beach so much (despite the crazy waiters), that we decided to spend another week there, and spend only a day in Penang.

When we arrived, and looked around, and visited everything, we wondered how we could have ever spent a week here. We couldn't have. We saw everything and ate everything there was to see and eat in one day. I actually read as we were walking on the streets— at the curbs, the stop signs, the maps. You'd be surprised how much you can get in while everyone else is trying to figure out which way to go.

And yet… after weeks of Bottle Beach, it's a bit of a relief to start walking as a family again on a trip, in the streets, looking at nothing in particular.

It's fantastic to walk past street lights and be able to stop while the parents try to figure out where it is we're going next. It's great to be doing the 'routine' again.

New Zealand

We reached Christchurch and settled in. We decided to go dolphin swimming (I was against it from the start!), and we told Ileana and Ioan (asked them, really, if they wanted to go) on March 2nd.


"But the water will be cold!" I exclaim,


"And it's going to be very windy!"


"You really don't want to go." I say desperately.

Mom and Dad are laughing their heads off.

It's not possible to go on the second, since the places have all been taken. So we make plans to go later in the week.

Ileana's birthday comes. We visit the Antarctica Centre, come back home, enjoy some wine and pasta, and begin talking. I think the conversation turned to the age at which the brain matures completely. I thought it was about 23, but I asked Dad.

"15." He says in Romanian. (Pronounced Cheen-spruh-zeh-cheh).

"No, Dad, completely."


I knew for certain it wasn't fifteen.



I ask five or six more times. It's 15 every single time.

"Okay," I said, realizing there's no talking to him along this vein any longer, "But WHY?"


I'm almost crying from frustration.

"Mom, tell him to behave himself."

Dad's laughing now. Ileana's laughing. Even Ioan and Mom are trying hard not to laugh.

I get up from the table and put my things in the sink. I really really really want to hit something.

"Cheen-spruh-zeh-cheh." Dad says again. Ileana takes it up.

I smack him on the head lightly with the dish towel.

The dish towel brings him to his senses.

"The brain starts maturing at fifteen," he begins, "And certain parts of it are fully-developed…"  he explains exactly what I needed to know.

"Thank you." I said.

And then we get to Akaroa, either on Monday or Tuesday (I think Monday). We go in, tell the woman we have a reservation (she looks a bit like Emily Blunt to all of us), and she smiles and says, "Yes, well. There are swells that are about two meters high out there today, and it's very windy," (The wind in Akaroa is negligible, but by the time you get out to where the dolphins are, it gets much much worse), "So we're asking that only strong swimmers go out there today."

We all look at each other.

"And what are the other options?" Dad asks.

"Well, you can take just a viewing boat, or you can wait for another day." 

"Okay, well, we'll just go out and think about it."

"I'm not a strong swimmer." Mom says when we get outside.

Now that we're here, of course, I have absolutely no problem with getting into freezing cold water that's making waves the height of my 6'4" cousin, just to swim with dolphins. You get a bit of buoyancy from the wet suits, and I'm the strongest swimmer in the family.

"I can go." I said, "But if we're not going I don't want to do anything."

Ileana doesn't want to do anything either.

Ioan wants to swim with dolphins.

Mom doesn't really care.

Dad wants to at least see them.

But we decide against it, and we go back in to see the nice lady who looks like Emily Blunt to tell her that we might come back when we're finished camper vanning, but we're not going to take the chances now.

"Yeah," she says sympathetically, "it's really not fun at all when the waves are like this. Not fun at all. You can't enjoy it because you're tossing up and down so much, and water gets in your mouth, and…"

So that was the end of dolphin swimming for us— we didn't go back there. 


Hawaii can be very aptly summed up by something Dad said:

"I think we are the only people who were forced to come to Hawaii."

And it's true. There are only two reasons we're here:

1) So that US Immigrations or Security or Whatever Processes Citizenships doesn't start getting ideas that we don't want to be US citizens.

2) So that we can take our tests.

And it's lovely to take tests. We commented on it at the very beginning: "Isn't it great to have to take a test?"

We hadn't been doing any 'normal' schoolwork on a regular basis for months. Schoolwork started when we had enough time and security to set out the laptops, enough energy to understand logic, science, and math, enough enthusiasm to actually do it.

By the end of three days of silly, easy questions, though, I'd had enough of tests and schoolwork. I'd taken this exact same test last year! I know this because I remember the question about cooking a turkey— I messed it up last year. This year, I remembered the trick part of the question and got it right.

Thanks for your patience in getting this post up!

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