Tuesday, December 30, 2008

elinphant


This morning a guy was leading a baby elephant through the town selling sugar cane to feed it with. I bought some and gave it to it's rubbery trunk which dexteriously wrapped around it and shoved it in its mouth, bringing its trunk back for more and more, but when I screwed up the empty bag, it knew there was none left. Then it was led away to find more customers, it let out a squeal like screeching tyres. It was so cute. Of course you can't help but feel sorry for a creature so intelligent and family oriented, especially that hook they use to guide them by the ear. Later that night we saw the elephant again at the night markets, it was making its tyre screech sounds as it was led among the people and scooters and cars. We'd been to night markets in other towns, which had lots of fun food and stalls of clothes, gifts etc, but this one was lame and we didn't find anything worthwhile to eat. So we left. We went to a little street food restaurant that made really good roti, they made it right in front of you, stretching a small circle of dough so thin it was almost transparent, before folding it up to make layered puffy roti which he cooked on a hot plate over an open fire. It was so good we decided to get some more stuff. This chicken and potato filled roti was delicious for the first couple of bites before quickly losing its appeal in the indulgent amounts of oil and the chicken tom yam soup we ordered, came in the form of a pile of rice with a chicken drumstick stuffed in the middle of it, which we took away with us and gave to some homeless burmese children further down the street. We needed a pallatte cleanser and the only thing we could think of was getting out of the reality of Mae Sot and into the western refuge of Taste Hazel, a cafe, where we had green tea and chocolate cake. How cultureless.

I'm confused. Though I shouldn't be, knowing how much humans suck. I wrote the other day about people exploiting the burmese in the gem trade in Mae Sot, but the burmese buy them too - that is not to say the trade is any less exploitative - it just means there are some burmese who have escaped that persecution to use it to their advantage, and of course there are examples of this throughout history, the preoccupation of self interest.

I am confused though, by the criteria for arrest of those detained at the detention center. I don't understand why those who come to visit during visiting hours, are not also arrested, not that I want them to be of course. Those who beg all day are completely exposed as being illegal, do they have some skill at evading authorities or are they tollerated for a while before being sent back? I need to investigate.

Monday, December 29, 2008

more stuff


So the internet has been a ee bit temperamental the last couple of days. We moved to our new guest house because a wedding had booked out our last one, an Irish girl is marrying someone in a refugee camp, but its worked out better for us, cheaper rent and bicycles, and the internet - while a bit temperamental isn't down for days on end.

On our second night here we had a mosquito net put up, but apparently there was a mosquito inside it, I could hear it whining passed my ears in the night and then in the morning could see its handy work, and poor abacus - just as her bites were clearing up, now has one on her cheek and one on her chin.

In the morning Abacus was rolling over onto her stomach on her mat, but then she seemed determined to get over onto her back again and she did it! So now she can roll over completely, the circle is complete.

There are goats that roam around the neighbourhood, there's a field opposite the guest house but they also venture across the bridge, maybe to scavenge for rubbish in the town, though there's plenty of rubbish dumped in the field too.

Danielle went to see her friends for a while, they're on holiday at the moment for another week.

There's not a lot happeneing really. The website I was hoping to make has stagnated - i think I'm going to pursue it on my own and just give them the template, I'll make it really easy to update, it'll be a good project for myself and one that should be quite applicable to other causes. The idea is pretty much like a blog, but with a front page template that is like a newspaper - or news website that can be updated using external word files. There are also playground building projects which have been put on hold for a couple of weeks, so my experiences are a little vicariously imbibed through danielle, it's hard to get involved hile caring for abacus - but there is no shortage of interactions and learning to be found in the town itself.

Nights are cold and I think of those detained around the corner from us. The detention center is completely exposed, I can't imagine what it's like for them, though I know they have suffered worse. They huddle on the floor watching the TV over the guards shoulder while babies and children cry in the background.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

catch up


A quick recap of our days without internet.

Abacus has been sleeping better with her new feeding schedule, I think the cereal is key. She certainly isn't sleeping through the night, but is sleeping for at least three hours at a time and sometimes four. I think it'll keep improving and she has settled into the new feed schedule well, cutting her feeds down to 6 a day. But she continues to cry quite a bit, and even her talking can often resemble a piercing scream, though when she's happy, she's really happy.

Our new guest house is nice and a lot cheaper, which is good because we'd underbudgeted the trip by quite a bit. We have our own detached little room which is good for Abacus' loud voice, somehow though, the room looks like its the outside and the door should lead to the inside - it's hard to explain.

It rained hard for a couple of nights, the locals were suspicious and a little supersticious, saying "It never rains in december", with the ominiously grave expressions of the jedi council. I'd forgotten about rain, and it was refreshing to have some, it's cooled everything off a lot.

I may have confused people when I took down my blog, people weren't after us and the order didn't come from any authorityarian rule, they are simply precautions which are made to limit information about certain operations, which could lead authorities to people who really don't want to be found. It is frustrating to leave out half the story - the main story really - on the blog, but I can tell you about it in person one day.

Also, we heard tale of a dunkin donuts in town, so we went to investigate. We found it in a giant supermarket where everyone was only buying shopping baskets full of cooking oil, the checkouts seemed to radiate a golden glow from the sheer quantity of the stuff. We later found out - as we'd suspected, that there was a speacial on oil, it was mainly though, store owners who were buying it to sell. PS the donuts were delicious.
When we left our guest house, we took a photo of the maid who'd been so good with Abacus and then we had it printed and went back and gave it to her, she really loved it, but more so, she loved that we brought the real abacus back with us. She wants to see more photos of Abacus as she grows older. Abacus is equally as loved at our new guest house (A guest house by the way is like a motel but made up of little houses rather than a big concrete block building). There's a ten year old girl , whose mother works here, who is very interested in abacus.

Across  from the guest house is a detention center full of people; men, women and children, who are to be deported back to Burma. They are not hidden from site, it is just a huge concrete room with a wall of bars on the front, on which those captive hang their clothes, while they sit or lay on the concrete floor, waiting for the inevitable. The Thai guards are plain clothed, they watch TV as though it is nothing more than an impound lot, but there's also strong police presence. It's a hard image to walk passed everyday, there are so many angry feelings of helplessness and the hopelessness of humans here. 

Further fueling this hopelessness is the healthy gem trade on the main street. Danielle pointed out how on the streets there's a lot of people buying gems, little rings and things, which they hold up to the sun outside, scrutinising their worth. The jewels though come from Burma, and the conditions in which they're mined are as you'd expect of a country under totalitarian rule. People buy Nike shoes made in sweatshops and diamonds mined in horrifying conditions all around the world, and that too is unforgivable, I know (in fact, ironically,  nike seems to be the shoe of choice for most NGO's), but this crisis is so close, so visible, there are the desperate examples of the means by which their trinkets are got, walking among them, even haunting the very markets which sell the gems, they're collecting rubbish for money, or have one frail hand outstretched while the other holds a malnourished infant. This is the borderline of exploitation, where the two worlds physically impact upon each other, and yet it becomes as invisible a factor to their transactions, as it is when the border is an ocean wide, between the malls of the west and the factory floor of the third world. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

so um. the internet was down for two days or so.

now we have moved guest houses.

more later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

something

So it didn't really work so well. She slept for almost four hours, then she woke up every two hours again, so I had to keep her quiet for an hour until it was time to feed her, but she wasn't really all that into eating, so by morning time I was exhausted, while she was of course ready to go. But today she has been really good today, eating every four hours just like we wanted. So we'll just keep at it.

Today the ants got all through her cereal and our peanut butter, so I had to go get more, being sure to choose banana, milk and wheat over the fish, milk and wheat option. They were working on the roads today, there are a lot of female road workers. The truck laying the diesel looked as though it were from 30's america, but it did the job, they had finished half the road in no time at all, a job which would probably have taken a week at home. They also didn't have road signs or stop go signs even though  the the two lane road was reduced to two, but everyone worked it out, they just drove head on towards each other, and like a well rehearsed game of chicken, avoided each other at the last minute. And this too reminded me of something in India, and hopefully I can make this less confusing than yesterdays india reference. In india they don't use signs either when they're doing road works, but they don't even use road cones, they just lay rocks along the middle of the closed lane. We saw the rocks on the road beside us, through the bus window, like a Hansel and Gretel trail, which led to an unfinished bridge over a huge cliff. No signs, nothing but rocks to warn of the danger.

Abacus seems to stay awake longer with her new schedule and I tried a few grabbing exercises with her, she still needs a lot of practice, she does grab her feet, but reaching for stuff is a bit more challenging for her.

The maid cleans out her Abacus' pram too. We saw her beating it down with a duster and then finding her cardigan and hat in the undercarriage took them to be washed, putting them back in the pram in the plastic bags the use for laundry as a present. She loves her so much, it'll be sad to leave here on saturday for our new guest house.

We had a bit of red wine with some friends in the evening, about the only wine you'll find in Thailand, Dave, of Dave's Canadian fame imports it from south africa in huge vats and they sell it by the box. 

a funeral

The freezing morning, which abacus has made us well aquainted with, had transitioned seemlessly  into a stifling heat by the time we heard the distant bell nearing. We first thought it was a procession of monks, though as the parade came closer into view, we could see the first group of people walking behind the police officer, were plain clothed in ragged t-shirts. The first person was  carrying a small clay pot of fire, followed by a man carrying a pole, to which was tied a large paper doll, that danced playfully with the breeze. The next two men carried a bell suspended from a wooden beam between them, which a third man hit rhythmically with a hammer, in time to the monotonous chimes of the music, which radiated from the procession. Following the shaven headed monks in saffron robes, was a woman holding the painting of a young girl, whose body followed in the heartbreakingly small coffin, sat high on top of a small truck, followed by the remaining mourners, though there were no tears amongst them. It reminded me of a similar procession we saw in India. They all stared at us, even the men holding the body wrapped in a shroud above their heads, the funeral seemed to disappear in our presence. But this was Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, it's not like they hadn't seen westerners before, but maybe death was more common.

The night before had been no better than the others. Abacus stirred and squawked every hour or half hour, to sleep drink a few mls of milk, until deeply unconscious again. We had tried to have her sleep in our bed, but it had made no difference, except that her mosquito bites had multiplied by morning, until one arm was red with a heartless cluster of bumps, and her head and legs too had fresh bites. We sreached on line for feeding habits of babys her age and found that she was eating too smaller portions, way to frequently, so we plotted a regime change, and decided to stretch her fast time to four hours. However, abacus had some things to say about that and she had a convincing argument, which had me cede at two and three quarter hours. The next one stretched to three hours and the next three and a half, with her intake increasing each time also. It's probably been the most strict we've been on her, but what ever it takes to get her to sleep through the night, because we're going to age very quickly otherwise. We gave her three meals of cereal too, which is really tasty.

We bought some calamine lotion so that now her face and arms are polka dotted with white blotches. The woman at the store for some reason had to touch her bites, which made abacus cry, to which the lady responded with the familiar "clap to the crying baby" technique, which everyone in Thailand and Burma knows, to which Abacus responds by accelerating her crying, which usually attracts a crowd of people all clapping and laughing and being in her face, which usually accelerates her crying to a throaty scream. Already, at 6 months, the cultural divide is forged. Just as it is with dogs.

Later in the night we sought out the waffle lady, who has a stand amongst the street vendors, they looked delicious and the first bite was, but, was that a raisin? and was that, um, a corn kernel??  It was ok because we went to a bakery to get bread and they sold the best looking donuts there for so cheap and they were so good, the likes of which you could not find in New Zealand. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

dogs of war


There are locals working for NGO's who are being taught english so that they may converse more effectively with their western counterparts. On the surface it would seem more respectful to teach the foreigners the local language, however the transitional nature of the western volunteers and the permenancy of the locals, makes the equation the best fitting. When asked if they enjoy having a job that helps people, they uninhibitedly reply that it is "just a job" and in fact they view the migrants as untrustworthy, or thieves, with fragile states of sanity which they don't want in their country. They charged the NGO's founder as being "too nice" and that, as he lives in europe, is to far removed from the reality of the situation to know what is really going on. And in a sense, the charge is true. He has failed to appreciate the lack of understanding among the very people he has employed, of the very issues they are employed to help overcome. His failure to educate on the facets of the situation could only cause friction at the very point of contact, requiring the greatest freedom of movement.

I have little to say today. We barely slept with abacus waking every 2 hours, sometimes for no apparent reason. We've decided to just let her sleep in the bed with us tonight, even though she gets bitten by mosquitos, who so cruely go for her head and our faces and feet. She's harder to get back to sleep now, constantly trying to turn on to her stomach, and when succeeding crying because she can't get back off it and can't sleep that way. So getting her to sleep is a process of restraining her from turning, while holding a dummy in her mouth while whispering shhhhhh shhhhh shhhhhhh. Which is more exhausting than it sounds.

There's a mini gang of toy dogs which live next door, little fury ewoks who wear little vests, today they were wearing camo vests, but they are so ellusive when ever I take out my camera. I'll upload a blurry photo I have of one. Often when a huge pick up truck comes barreling down the driveway they'll come yapping out to swarm it's tyres, causing the truck to screech to a halt in a cloud of gravel dust. 

Today we bought abacus some banana cereal. She has been eating the bananas we've bought, but not as much as she should. They're a lot sweeter and more pungent than bananas she's used to. Everything is so different here. We wonder how hard it is on her. We've tried to maintain some rituals of routine, but it's her most familiar environment, the bed in which she slept for two months before she left, which is causing the most visible sign of being unsettled.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

an early morning excursion


This morning, like many other mornings, abacus was awake and talking loudly, the way a fire alarm talks, at 6am. So we decided, instead of our usual ritual of trying in vain to shut her up, we that we would take her for another motorcycle ride, to a giant buddha 3kms out of town, as there's no where we can go to keep her penetrating screams from the other guests. The early morning is freezing so we had her bundled up and wedged once more between us as  we rode along the dawn highway. The road was quiet with only trucks transporting workers to where ever they were going. Just out of town, one of the lanes disappeared into gravel, which no one drove on, creating a single lane highway, but so commonplace are such things, that it was approached with the banality of routine, and no sense of risk at all. Abacus began crying again part way along, though we were the ones bearing the brunt of the chilled morning air. The wat complex was huge, with ornate buildings everywhere and some workers chopped at a tree which lost large parts of its body with resounding cracks. As we walked through the quiet morning attendence, we were looking for a giant reclining Buddah and then suddenly you see it, a giant face between a couple of the buildings, which danielle likened to seeing Tane Mahuta for the first time, the giant amongst giants, its presence startling your expectations. Buddhas face looks with that feminine serenity of south east asian design, laying in contentment before the tiny people and their offerings. Across the way were about 20 identical  buddha, all lined up behind a cage, with the look of a carnival sideshow, where someone might try to aim ping pong balls into their mouths. On our way back to our scooter we saw a little monk boy with a friend who had a bb gun shaped like an AK-47 shooting birds, I tried to get a photo but the boy with the gun didn't want to be photographed, I would have thought the buddhist monk would have shied away from being photographed with someone killing creatures more than the guy with the gun. We rode back screaming once more through the early morning chill, our rent had run out on the bike, much to Abacus' relief, she had a much more enjoyable time in the pram on the way to get Pancakes and bacon and a crap huge coffee at Daves Canadian and then a real coffee on the way home, she fell asleep along the way.

As we don't have baby food here, we bought some bananas and mashed them up with a pestle and mortar, but when she tried the banana she started to freak out, shaking her hands with wide eyes before she started crying, then when we tasted it we realised that there must have been some chilli residue left in the mortar from some grining up chillis and so the bananas were spicey. So that was her introduction to spicey food i guess. It wasn't really, really spicey, just a mild tingling.

Abacus slept a lot of the afternoon. Maybe we should just get up with her every morning. I went for a walk to get some supplies and spent a bit extra on my way home, doling out coins to all the starving mothers along the way, it's pretty hard to know someone could go starving for no good reason, i wish i could do more to help them. 

We went to the borderline shop for dinner again, they have such good burmese food for really cheap. We also found out that they no longer issue 30 day visas after visiting Burma, it's now only 15, so we'll have to cross the border three times before we leave. It's a shame we can't see much of Burma on the otherside, I've heard it likened to going to Tiajuana and saying you've been to Mexico, it's just another border town. 

We walked back as the wild dogs were crawling out from their shady hiding places from the afternoon heat, finding now their warm spots in the middle of the road beneath the setting sun, grudgingly moving for scooters sounding their horns with courteous little "excuse me please"es. 

the screaming scooter


There's some tragic looking westerners in thailand, a guy with a hawaiin shirt, unbuttoned to show his chest, tucked into his jeans, with his greying hair slicked back just walked passed.

But anyway. 

We hired a motorcycle today to go visit some friends. Danielle drove with me holding abacus on the back. When abacus had previously riden a motorcycle she seemed to enjoy it, but this time, after about a kilometer, she began screaming uncontrollably, and there was little i could do but hold her squashed between the two of us. The important thing to remember in thailand is, that when you make a right hand turn, you stay on the right side of the road, and then weave your way to the left once you are around the corner - that's the rule not just cutting corners, you'll find it hard to get around on the left as cars turning right are all lined up on the left of the road. 

So our little scooter apparently screamed through Mae Sot village attracting odd looks from the road side.

Abacus cried from all of the attention again so we lay her down on some blankets, where a mother dog watched attentively over her until she calmed - but refused to sleep. Our friends made us lunch, and offered us palm sugar for desert, and for some reason a whole nut and tea leaf salad, even though I couldn't eat another thing. But then Abacus began to scream inconsolably, so we had to leave our half eaten food and scream through the village and get her to bed. Later we went for coffee at this place, which seems to attract hella westerners with laptops giving it the distinct feeling of being a starbucks somewhere, we'd taken the scooter to get there, as it was a long walk away but only a short drive, but Abacus was screaming by the time we got back home again. She just seems to hate motorbikes. 

the unstaffed coffee shop - abridged

I went for coffee today but there was no staff in the store and no bell, so I waited for 20 minutes, but no one came, even though I could have helped myself to anything in the fridge, or if I'd been inclined to investigate - possibly even the till. I got bored and left and came back on my way home, but still no one.

All I'll say is that NGO's will not help their causes by starting conflicts among themselves, especially with those who volunteer and pay to help.

Danielle feels much better today, illness wise.

Abacus has been a bit difficult the last couple of days and it's not helping that to respect the silence of other guests we cannot parent how we normally would, meaning she's getting quite spoilt. Especially being able to sleep in the bed with us. She's taking a lot longer to get to sleep at times and waking up a lot more in the night and talking loudly.


Later in the night, the three new zealand idiots would become so drunk they would let off bottlerockets out of their hands outside the guest house, welcoming the scorn of all of the other guests. the old night watchman, an elderly Burmese asylum seeker would be shaking his head, powerless to stop them, the other old man was a drunk who the boys would coerce, it sounded, into holding a bottle rocket in his hand, then laughing hysterically in disbelief that he would comply, they would call him "sky rocketman", they'd filled the coke fridge with beer and cheap whiskey, but the firdge is locked after 8, so they would be yelling "hey skyrocketman! kinoi 'av th key". They looked the type advertised in drunk driving commercials, and they would drive off drunk, on motorcycles, but unfortunately they would return unscathed after "blowing some shit up", mouthing back at the other guests, all of whom are here on voluntary basis for humanitarian work. It makes no sense for them to even be here. There is nothing here for them to do, it's not a tourist destination and it's so far out of the way I don't know how they ended up here. I don't know why they're not in the islands where they would be inconspicuous with the other tourists, who travel only to indulge in their own culture in another land, a century earlier they would have been the worst of the colonizers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

they hand wash our laundry!





In the early hours of the morning you can hear the buddhist monks chanting in the distance, so faint and organic does it sound it is like an auditory hallucination, the mind forming shapes from the wind. About half an hour later the loud speakers around town broadcast the morning muslim prayer, crackling in the cool dry air, splitting the sky open, as light begins to flow into the predawn and birds begin their voyage through the prayer filled sky. Then Abacus cracks all the ceremony with her loud mouth talking as she wants nothing but to be awake.

I bought a new pair of jeans before I left New Zealand and since my illness, they are too big for me, when I weighed myself in Singapore I was over 70, probably the heaviest I've been in years, who knows what I am now. I should start eating more of the delicious looking cakes around town, they are like 25c each. The other day we had Burmese tea cakes and saved some to take home, wrapped in a napkin. But the next day when I unwrapped the tissue, the cakes were covered in tiny dust sized ants, yet there was no sign of ants anywhere else in the room. It's as though they materialised from within the cakes themselves, as though they were some kind of Trojan Burmese tea cakes. Later that night when I went to microwave a burger, I saw the same type of ants all through the inside of the microwave,I heated the burger expecting all the ants would perish, but when I opened the door they were running around as though nothing had happened. So obviously they must be some form of alien ants, from some sort of alien ant farm perhaps ? What would have been worse is if I'd opened the microwave to find super giant radioactive ants.

So today I had the simple task of buying some new nappies. But there are no quick easy errands in Thailand, at least not as we would know it, not without extreme patience. I can't emphasise enough how much of an obstacle course it is pushing a pram though the town, it's difficult enough on foot, it's hard to know when the footpath is going to just disappear into a shop or a hole or turn into road, or step up to a higher footpath for which there is no ramp. None of the stores have ramps but their doorways are always one or two steps off the ground. And food takes forever, in an empty restaurant it took someone forty minutes to make me a sandwich, it just takes a shift in expectations,to know you can't "just pop out" for a "quick" something.

Some other new zealanders are staying at the guest house. I don't even know why they came to Mae Sot of all places, they just do things like buy fireworks and let them off at night, and walk around in open robes with little else on, offending the female staff. They're just dicks. I was thinking of making up some elaborate plot that they're involved in and telling some informers and having them disappeared.

Danielle is a bit fluey now. One of us is always sick! We got some spicey soup for dinner to help clear her head and a brownie. hehe. After dinner some carollers came around. They were all dressed in santa hats, the girls had fake white braids coming out of theirs. There was a lot of english for them to know to sing the songs. It was so cute.

History deleted.

So I've taken most of the blog down for security reasons, I might get around to putting a severely edited version up if I have time. Ironic that to protect freedom one must self impose the same extreme censorship that was the cause for escape. There are informants everywhere around here and people go missing. They search websites, blog sites, hang out at guest houses, not that we have any worries because we're only here on holiday, but I've heard of westerners being involved in things and so there is suspicion of westerner activities in Mae Sot. (Funny that bloggers spell check doesn't recognise the word blog). So from now on I will be writing differently.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Burma


Some people have asked me to explain the situation in Burma. It's difficult to summarise the brutality and oppression of the military dictatorship there and also the eloquent words of those who have written about it, but I'll try. The best book I have read about it, aside the many reports scattered around the guest house, is "Finding George Orwell in a Burmese tea shop". George Orwell worked in Burma as part of the Imperial Police Force when he was just the 17-22 year old Eric Blair. The British ruled Burma after ousting the Burmese king and annexing it into the Indian part of their empire, which stretched from modern day Pakistan to Burma (they never conquered Afghanistan as no one ever has or will). George Orwells first book was Burmese Days, but some say he wrote a trilogy about Burma, including 1984 and Animal Farm, so chillingly similar are these dystopias to present day Burma that he is known to the Burmese as the Prophet, though his books are banned in Burma - I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the books themselves serve as instruction manuals, in the back pockets of the piggish Generals who rule Burma. 

The short lived democratic rule in Burma was founded by a resistance group led by one Aung San. During world war 2, he led his group to Japan where they were trained to oust the British. However, when they returned to Burma they saw the Japanese as a bigger threat to their freedom and culture and instead defected to join the British in driving out the invading Japanese, an operation which was successful and led to the granting of independence from the British. Soon after Aung San began leading a transitional government in 1948, he and his cabinet were assassinated by a rival party. In 1962 democracy was completely destroyed by a military coup, led by General Ne Win, who would rule Burma for the next 26 years with overreaching authority, violently suppressing any protest, no matter how peaceful with overwhelming force under the guise of transitioning the country towards socialism. Over the years Burma would amass an army the size of the current American one, though with no external enemies, their force would be instead turned inwards, to control their own population.

Students and monks have been instrumental in leading opposition protests. A key moment in Burmese history came on the auspicious date, 8.8.88, when students lead a huge protest for democracy. This protest, to the rest of the worlds horror, was met with a live military response in which over 3000 unarmed protestors were shot dead, with many more injured. It was after this 8888 uprising that the country's name was changed to Myanmar and it's capital also moved, cities and street names were renamed, as if in changing these names, they could rid Burma of its memory and history, in chilling similarity to Orwels 1984.   

Aung San Su Kyi, Daughter of the revolutionary founder of democratic Burma returned to Burma at this point with a mission to lead the country towards democracy, in 1990 elections were held for the first time in 30 years, during which Hung San was detained and held under house arrest. Despite her incarceration, her party still won an overwhelming 82% of the vote, this though meant nothing, as Slorc (State Law and Order Restoration Council) had no intention of ceding power and instead instated a new general as the new ruler of Burma. Since then Aung San has been held under house arrest on several occasions for periods of years at a time. 

Under the guise of socialism Slorc, which is now renamed SPDC (State peace and development council), uses its civilians in unpaid hard labour to build projects in "the benefit of the state". During the time they work on these projects, they are unable to work to support themselves, which means, many begin working after sometimes 12 hours of forced labour, with little sleep, in order to maintain a livelihood, or at least to eat. There are reports of people being worked to death in these situations. 

Opposition to the government is fiercely monitored by under cover officials who eavesdrop on cafe conversations. They have an eloquent name for these informers, "the handle of the axe" as the axe handle is made of the same wood that it's head is designed to destroy. Those deemed to be talking about questionable topics are carried away to be interrogated in prison, where many are held for years, enduring torture and extreme psychological trauma for which there is no treatment when they are released. Some political prisoners die in custody, however their bodies are cremated and sometimes buried before families are told, to hide any signs of culpability, others just disappear. Publications within Burma are heavily edited to omit every last word which might possibly allude to, or connatate a current event the SPDC might want censored, for what ever reason. Burmese learn to read what isn't there, the sudden absence becoming the headline for the current biggest news story. And in true Animal Farm fashion, the parties three  slogans are written on walls and everyday in the "news"paper. 

None of the governments heavy handed tactics have any benefits for the country, which was once earmarked as the most promising economy in south east asia, it is now economically crippled, with 75% of the population living below the poverty line. However, despite western scorn for the regime, in the mid ninties Burma was welcomed into asean, the Asian economic group, giving access to, not wealth per se, but a strong support, a metal rod in the spine of a dead country - Burma is Bernie, and the rest of Asia are the guys trying to walk the corpse around. Therefore, western sanctions, which have been in place in Burma - have no real effect ( not that sanctions ever have a helpful effect). However the dead country has many organs for harvesting; oil and rubies which, countries such as China, are drilling without conscience (and let me just add for the seemingly popular and sanctioned racism towards China, that before it was held to ransom by the entire western world and forced to continue dealing in opium, which it had wanted to outlaw, was one of the leading thinkers in human rights). The French oil company Total is one of the few western companies remaining, but it is these western companies which Ian proposes could be the saviour of Burma. Western companies are scrutinised by and heed the advice of human rights groups. They bring with them conduits of activism, development and if nothing else a foreign presence, a link for the oppressed to the outside world that they crave and witness to the crimes of the regime, who want nothing more than impunity. Total has constructed schools in the area and is doing good work in Burma. 

Military action is not possible because of the size of the Burmese army and it's alliance with China, sanctions (if they ever work) cannot work because of its inclusion in ASEAN. Therefore, foreign investment is a viable penetrating force, so long as they are held accountable for their actions by their own countries of origin, whether through government, UN, human rights watchdogs or activist groups. Western countries are wary of human rights abuse scandals. 

Foreign investment is not the popular view of most activist groups who push for total exclusion of Burma, a view held by imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Su Kyi. This however is simply not feasible and as she has been under house arrest for so long, her wishes are outdated, so we do not know what views she might now hold. Aung San incidently was awarded the nobel peace prize and is the only laureate to be imprisoned. She will no doubt not live to see democracy in Burma, she is separate from her family in England where she is free to go to and never return from. We discussed this last week and reached the conclusion that she can't leave now, she like Ghandi or Martin Luther King jr is an activist for nonviolent protest, who gave their lives to their cause. She will probably die a symbol of hope for democracy and human rights, which she could not become with her freedom. And while her predecessors were assassinated, her death will be seen as no less of a blot on Burma's history, the wasted life of a political genius, the wasted years of oppression.

Burmese flee and bribe their way into Thailand where they find themselves in a different kind of hell. They are about as wanted here as migrants are wanted anywhere. They are blamed of course for all the countries problems, while fuelling the economy with their low wages. They have no rights here, those who come to work as migrant workers are exploited maltreated and indentured. They work in dangerous, demeaning dirty jobs for a couple of dollars a day. They are extorted by Thai authorities, rounded up and deported whenever the Burmese government asks the Thai government to do so. And those deemed to be fleeing fighting are granted stay in what should be refugee camps, though the Thais do not recognise refugee status, they have supplied land for the camps and tolerate the NGO operations within them, but no one may leave the camps. Those who are migrant workers are allowed to stay so long as they can keep paying the bribes, they have no Thai rights, no right to go to school, they are not protected by Thai laws and some employers push these facts to the extreme. 

There is a book here about female migrant workers, who have it worse than anyone, entitled "Between two hells". Which I think is the most apt assessment of the situation. 

In 2007 further protests took place, instigated by the monks, it was called the saffron revolution indicative of the colour of their robes. Accurate reports are difficult to get out of Burma, however it is pretty widely accepted that this uprising was brutally suppressed. In the same year a devastating cyclone, cyclone Nargis, hit the irawaddy delta, the amount of lives lost was estimated to be about 146,000, what is more tragic though is the amount of these lives that might have been saved, had the regime allowed foreign aid through. What aid was accepted was used to construct a facade. What may as well have been a film set of medical tents in a crude display for foreign cameras.

About the only thing that Thailand offers (not to paint all thais with the same brush of course - most of the population is compassionate) is access to hard working volunteering NGO's, who offer those fleeing destitution and violent oppression with health care, education, compassion and if nothing else, the ability to tell their stories, think critically and be heard. 

I hope I have explained this well enough, if I have got things wrong (and I'm sure the SPDC would think so and would like to send me one of the fact books they send Ian to "help" with his articles), I apologise but my intentions are good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Disney is watching you

In singapore they are huge on Disney. You see Disney character sculptures everywhere. In the departure lounge they have thiis huge happy display off all the disney characters with a sign in the middle of it saying "this area is under surveilance".

Friday, October 31, 2008

halloWEEn

Yesterday was halloween so danielle died dyed abacus' pink stretch and grow and sewed a tail on it black and we painted her face up as a black cat hehe. see the flickr site for a cute photo or two.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

whoa Abacus was wired tonight. I have no idea why, she was awake and charged up for like 5 hours, we were tired before she was, it was like "abacus, shouldn't you be putting us to bed?"

Monday, October 27, 2008

rolling over

We're yet to see it yet, but Abacus can rollover, we came in to find her on her belly the other day and at about 2 this morning, while danielle was making her milk abacus was kicking around on her little pillow, then the next thing i here a slight thud and she's rolled off and is face down on the floor. hehe. But it's not surprising as her tummy time has yet again accelerated, these things just seem to happen over night with no gradual improvement, all of a sudden she's 20 times better than she was the day before. The pediatrician told us we weren't allowed to support her head any more when we walk around, that may have contributed too. I've been taking her in the front pack facing outwards now, and she really enjoys it, she makes little kicking movements as though she's walking. hehe.

Mahia

Abacus went to the pediatrician last week and he said she was doing above average for her age which is awesome, that's for any child of her age. She's growing really tall, and has pretty much quadrupled in weight since she was born.

This weekend, seems our car is about to expire we decided to take it on one last road trip up to Mahia, or Morere more specifically, just south of Gisborne. Abacus woke us up nice and early on sunday morning and we were on the road by 6. She travelled really well, sleeping a lot of the way. We got to Waipukerau in time for coffee, for which Danielle had two vouchers for free coffee that were slipped into her wallet when it was sent back to us after we forgot it at the same cafe a year ago. We made it by mid afternoon, we were given this cute as one bedroom cabin situated on some farm land with sheep running around. The owners were really friendly farmer types and they had a cute wee dog named socks. Did I mention it rained the whole way ? It was a really gloomy rainy day, but monday was meant to be good. We all took a quick nap before heading over to the thermal pools, which boasted "fosilized water", as the water takes thousands of years of travelling through the earth before resurfacing again, all toasty warm at these little pools, it's supposed to have therautic qualities from in it's mineal richness. It was a realy nice little bush walk to get to them. I was a bit skeptical of Abacus enjoying herself in the pools but she was really calm and loved it heaps, for way longer than I had expected, but then she was suddenly hella tired and began screaming! So we had to dash back to the cabin and try and get her to sleep, if she msses her sleep window she can be really pissed, and she was, but after maybe 10 minutes or so she was all of a sudden happy and cute before finally drifting off to sleep. The bed was so comfortable that we just crashed out, and being in the country, the darkness was impenetrable and the heavy rain on the thin roof made our little warm cabin all the more cosy.

The next morning was as blue and perfect as the weather mystics had predicted, they must have slaughtered the right amount of chickens. And we drove off to explore the beaches around mahia. It was a beautiful area of the country, we had not been there before, the coast line was long and sraight and lay at the bottom of where the green hills ended at a neatly hewn precipice. There were also perfectly still estuaries that were perfect mirror pools of the sky and hills. We drove to Napier for lunch, to see if a cafe where we'd had lunch 4 years before was till there (sadly it wasn't - but its a mongolian barbarque now - oddly a couple of years ago danielle and i became obsessed with mongolia so it wasn't so sad after all (however, it should be noted that mongolian barbarque is not really a native mongolian practice, it's actually only found outside of mongolia)) Anyway, on the way to Napier the car began to overheat, so we had to drive with the heater on, and it was already a realy hot day, so it was tough going. It continued to overheat leaving napier (a town that seemed just a little too kid friendly - and really, who cares about art deco? If it was that good wouldn't they still be designing in that style ? It should be renamed the kitsch capital of the world) and so we were really really hot, I stopped to check the water again - which had already filled up and the bonnet (hood) wouldn't close properly, so I had to pound it shut with my fist in the forecourt of the petrol station but it got us back to Wellington.

Just as we got to the hutt however we hit a massive traffic jam, and crawled along for a good 15 minutes and found the cause of the hold up was some hunting day, there were all these possum and deer carcasses strung up, hahaha, only in the hutt.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a curious incident 2

oh and a funny incident. Danielle met her friend at a cafe at university and while they were talking a stranger came up and was like "oh, a baby! I love babies" and she held abacus and stuff. But then, a couple of days ago, danielle was metting the same friend, at a different cafe, all the way accross the other side of town, and they were just returning to the car and putting abacus in and she must have mentioned abacus' name because the same lady from the other cafe appeared and was like "Did I hear someone say Abacus?" hehe

it's not the only time either that abacus has overshadowed us, we went to t he same restaurant two fridays in a row and i paid the same waitress, but it wasn't until she saw abacus that she recognised us, "she saw her in her pushchair and was like "I remember you" and then recognised us. 

up till now

hrm. well what's happened. 

well we're nearing I think 6 months of interrupted sleep cycles, which has left me feeling a little like a CIA interrogation victim, ask me anything and I'll tell you.

but abacus is so worth it. a few weeks ago her hands found each other and now she's constantly clutching them together as though she has some plan she is hatching. And she gets a huge gummy smile, especially when you dance her around, she talks a lot, mainly in the mornings, but she also quietly talks herself to sleep, you hear her in the darkness making soft noises and then suddenly silence.

She is 5.5kg's so has gained a really really good amount of weight since she was born, and she is growing long too, she's so baby sized now, i feel as though we were given an extra amount of time with her, we got to know her as a fetus, and now as a baby, but I can already see she will not be a baby for long. 

Danielle got her a bouncenette, it's a strap in chair one, and she seems to really enjoy sitting up, she always has, really, almost as much as she likes being walked around. I think she will be quite determined to get mobile as soon as she can.

She loves eating too. We've given her pears and apples and mangos and avacado and she loves it all, she's getting much better at opening her mouth for the spoon and biting down on it. 

more later

Thursday, October 16, 2008

i have the chessiest most unoriginal way to put abacus to sleep. you just say shhhhhhh shhhhhh over and over and watch her eyelids slowly drop, it's like hypnosis, suspense that ends with falling asleep. how oxymoronic. she just gets more and more animated, she loves being on the move all the time and doesn't care to much for being still. she's getting better at eating her pears and apples, though i think she likes pears more. she's been eating lot s of milk too and has outgrown her crib so now we've made up a makeshift bed which will have to do until we get a bigger place on our return from thailand.
for thailand we have a travel playcrib thing, which folds up like a tent - complete with mosquito net. it's going to be sooooo hot there and humid so we'll have to watch her fluids and see how she reacts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

last week abacus and I accompanied danielle to her award ceremony at university where she was awarded an outstanding volunteer certificate, yay! that was a day after she was accepted into the masters program for international relations, it was a pretty awesome week. We then decided that because we couldn't go to panama this summer that we would take the opportunity offered by danielle's victoria international leadership program to help burmese refugees on the border of Thailand and Burma. It sounds like an amazing experience and as we are already familiar with Thailand we think it'll be a really good introduction to traveling with Abacus.

Then on saturday Abacus had her sleep over which had been deferred from last week. She had a really good time, and slept really well. She spent all morning there too, hanging out with Zen and Reiden and Kaysey, while we slept, waking up once in the middle of the night with a minor hit of disorientation, before realising I could just go back to sleep. It was really good to see her again the next day and we had both missed her.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yesterday Abacus had more shots. Danielle said she's never heard her scream so loud or for so long ! it was so bad one of the nurses had to leave the room. poor bubba. she's all good now though, she slept it off.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

the apples and pears to heaven

Abacus is eating pears now and she likes it way more than rice cereal. She was supposed to go for her first sleep over on saturday night with a baby named Zen, but she was acting a bit strange, crying a lot, sleeping an hour here and there, and needing a lot of cuddles so we weren't sure what was going on, if she were teething or if she had caught something, so we had to call it off, but something fun came out of it, because we found out that Zen had had the same problem with rice cereal as Abacus did, and that he preferred vanilla custard instead - hehe. we hapened to have some pear babyfood in the pantry (which actually wasn't bought for Abacus) and so we tried it out on her and she seemed to enjoy it, she ate every last bit, well you know tongued it and swallowed and didn't cry about it which means -  good! and so now we bought a bunch of apples and pears and have been giving her them as an accompaniment to her milk. Also on sunday -  she's probably been able to do this a while but Danielle just gave it her on sunday - she was holding a rattle and shaking it round, with the occasional bop on the head, but no tears. It was pretty cute. (see photos)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

growth

abacus really wants to suck her thumb, she s getting pretty good at it but it's still to small to replace her beloved dummy, usually she just shoves as many fingers as she can in there. We think she's been having a growth spurt lately which has disrupted her sleeping at night, and her getting to sleep, she gets over tired and cries a lot  and ends up smacking herself in the face which makes her cry more, all we can do is try to soothe and comfort her. But she makes up for it by being super cute the rest of the time. Oh yeah, she also love getting up at 6am, she's not hungry or anything, she just wants to be up, and t's not enough just to lay in the bed with us, despite the fact she can only lay down whereever she is, she knows the difference between laying on our bed and laying out in the living room, where she kicks excitedly and gurgles happilly knowing that she's succeeded in dragging us from our cosy slumber (this is usually after waking up at about 3am to eat tee hee) - no that's not exactly true, i can lay her down with her baby gym next to our bed and go back to sleep while she gets on to the business of pulling and grabbing and sucking her baby toys, quite contentedly. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

sorry ?

WHOA!. so sorry for the grand time canyon which runs between this and the last blog. So what s Abacus been up to ? well, she got her passport! she looks chubba as in it, now we have to fill it with stamps from far off places. She continues to grow, and make subtle advances on her skills, she sort of gurgles a laugh now which is so cute, but what s not so cute is the few times when she's screamed for ages and we don't know how to calm her, today Danielle had about an hour of it before she finally exhausted herself and fell asleep. 

The other day she went for an 8 hour stay with our babysitter (Jenna), whose son Leo kept kissing her, before jenna realised it was because he heard kiss, whenever jenna said abacus. Unfortunately Abacus has stopped eating rice cereal, the first couple of nights she kind of ate it as though it  bottle, but she has since wised up to that trojan spoon and closes her mouth until we give her a bottle, we try again every now and then, she'll be ready soon. 

What we've been up to is assignments and work and applications, hence the sparce amount of news i've posted, we're just a little short on time. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

this week abacus' tummy time improved ten fold, almost over night. She's suddenly grunting in great effort to hoist herself up really far, she's really determined to do it.

We had a bit of bad news this week too. We had been planning to leave in November to volunteer in a village in panama for a few months, but unfortunately a huge disaster struck the remote village. Two dams failed during heavy rains and the river flooded and swept away a lot of the village ausig a lot of death and destruction. The brother of guy who we were communicating with, was also killed, he was to attend a university in US next year with sponsorship. It's a real tragedy, but we will be very eager to go and help in April, which is when they said it will be possible for us to go.  

Sunday, September 14, 2008

solids

that was the other thing, how she ate a whole feed while still asleep. hehe.

abacus had a pretty huge sunday, we both needed to get some assignments done so she went and hung out with her babysitters, apparently she ate one and a half bottles when she woke up and then went straight back to sleep! then we went to my cousins house so they could meet her, she stayed awake the whole time and seemed really excited and interested in everyone, especially alexa (sorry if my spelling is wrong) their youngest daughter, who seemed equally as excited and interested in abacus.

then, because abacus was sleeping through the night a week ago and now she wakes up at 3 again, "someone" told us that they started their baby on solids when that happened and the baby went back to sleeping through the night, DON'T TELL PLUNKET! but tell as many doctors as you like because they're chillaxed as about it. So, we got her some rice cereal just a real small amount to start with. She was so cute eating it, she kind of sucked at the spoon like it was a bottle, then after she ate all that, she had her bottle and went to sleep for . . . 8 hours!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

crying like a grown up

I may have told you this already but the other day danielle made this low groan noise, kind of like a scary monster and abacus' eyes opened really wide and then she had this huge pout before starting to cry, as though she were scared, but she had no reference or association between the noise and anything bad happening, it's so wierd, we want to try it again, but also don't want to scare her so we probably won't.

last night, i'm talking about crying a lot here for some reason, but last night she cried like a real cry, not just an automatic response cry, but an actual emotional sounding cry.

there was one other thing i was going to write - i forget now, i ll tell you when i remember.
Abacus is getting really vocal now, making lots of little baby sounds, she's also getting a lot better at putting her hands in  her mouth which is really good but she s also getting good at pulling her dummy out and then crying about it. right now she's very excited to be playing with her toys and is kicking her legs and flayling her arms to show it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

a perfect day

on sunday the weather was beautiful so we went to take abacus on her first swimming adventure at the kilbernie pools, what s awesome about taking her is that we get in for free and her entry fee is cheaper than it would for either of us to go by ourselves. the pools are awesome with water cannons and lots of fun things going on. Abacus donned her cute red stripey bathing suit and danielle took her in. She was very still, a little wierded out by the whole thing but she seemed to enjoy herself for a short time. We'll definately take her out there again. On the way back we drove around the bays and saw the snow capped ranges around wellington and across the strait to the south island, we stopped at the maranui cafe and abacus slept peacefully while we ate our awesome lunch with perfectly cooked fries and probably the best shake ever, then she continued to sleep while i picked some stuff up from the office, she was so good.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

it's amazing how much progress abacus has made in the three weeks since her last neurodevelopmental (N.D) therapy visit. Her neck control has continued to improve, being able to track us as we walk passed her, holding her head centered, how she stares at us and pulls objects to her mouth, how she's started smiling and cooing. The ND therapist (michelle) was really impressed with it all. I'd had to rouse abacus from her sleep for the visit, she slept well, 8 hours or so. The cutest moment came when michelle put te wheke (maori for octopus) on top of her little gym so as not to distract abacus while she was shown a smiley face rattle, but it had the opposite effect, you see abacus LOVES te wheke, she's always staring at it and bashing it round, so when she saw it suddenly looking down on her instead of dangling for her to bash, she was completely captivated by the novelty and stared at it excitedly, kicking and thrashing her arms with wide eyes and making noises. It was really cute!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The other night during a bath abacus was really active and kicking and splashing and having fun, but then she got a bit too excited and kind of started thrashing around and freaked herself out! I hope she's not scared of the bath now. But today we went to get her passport photo taken, she d fallen asleep in the stroller by the time we walked there and the photographer was skeptical of her being able to stay awake or be happy during it, he said maybe we should come back when she's woken up, but we were like let's just try and she was calm as, proving yet another person wrong! hehe. she had to have her eyes open and be facing the front ( while she lay on a mat on the floor ) and one photo was really cute but her heads a little off center which we'll try to submit, but we have a back up one where she facing the front but looks a little freaked out. hehe

Monday, August 25, 2008

developing

Not a whole bunch to report. Abacus is just subtely growing more and more cognizant all the time. She woke up this morning because we had gotten up and I guess the noise roused her, and she was just happy and chill and pleased to see us and to see the world some more. She did a bit of tummy time with little fuss, we need to keep that up, she's made so much progress and is so strong we just have to keep her developing at the same rate. She slept a good 8 or so hours again last night - though that meant waking up at 430am still, but she's definately eating enough to maintain her through such long sleeps.

She visited a neighbour yesterday and danielle set up her bank account, she get's a disability allowance - which i guess is supposed to help us with looking after her, but we'd rather she had it for later on, danielle had even joked about adopting a child using abacus' money, so that abacus could hold that over them, "You better be nice to me because I paid for you!" hehe.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

smile!

So Abacus started smiling now. It's so cute! She's also started chugging a whole bottle of milk. She's grown so much, she's 60cm long and no longer fits snuggly in our lap. She stares at us a lot now too, making eye contact even when we're quite far away from her. Yesterday she was eating and I got the push chair out because we were going on a walk and he got all excited when she saw it and started drinking really fast. hehe.

Friday, August 22, 2008

bloggity blog

yesterday we went to the downs society coffee morning. it was a good experience. There were only three mums there and three downs kids, who were all about 3 years old. The mum was there that danielle met earlier at the beach and her little boy Fletcher, the other boys were Jesse and Jack. Abacus slept through most of it when she woke up she looked around and had a feed and was pretty good with it all. They have developmental classes there, like speech therapy and music therapy they have a long waiting list. A lot of it is comparing, which we openly admit, it's good to have some sort of idea of what to expect at different ages, and we heard a lot of stories about their differences in progress.

It's funny, danielle was asked a lot of questions by a curious neighbour, well meaning and nice, asking about abacus' future, her development etc. It's strange how a child with a disability focuses your attention so far ahead, where as children without any innate inabilities are kind of left to be kids. But anyone at any time could have limited potential, not necessarily an accident, they could just make dumb choices, they could become addicts, drunkards, make poor relationship choices - anything, why are kids without disabilities exempt from that worry? Or more diplomatically, why can't children with disabilities take it day by day like other kids, enjoy being a child and leave adulthood until we get to it. I'm not going to map out her future anymore than any other child, people seem to freak out a lot more than us about her disability, we're completely at ease with it, we've long since made our peace with existence, Abacus made it easy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

rock a bye baby rockin out

yesterday was pretty chill, wait no it wasn't, we went to bed quite late and then abacus kept waking up and then we had to wake up to take evan to the airport, and i didn't go because i thought abacus should sleep, but then just after they left she woke up and stayed awake until danielle got home. hehe. and then we finally slept - till like 12 or something.

THEN, the day was pretty chill. We just put abacus in her sleeper-hold front pack and did the groceries. Then when we got back the neighbours invited us to go sit in their garden, which danielle and abacus did while I got in some outstanding recording time, they had a fun time, so did i. Later in the evening we went to my friends birthday, there were these loud kind of latinish drummers there, a drumming duo, and I was thinking that Abacus was going to hate it and cry but . . . she fell asleep ! maybe we should get a drum kit and just play really loudly when she won't sleep?

she only woke once in the night, after about 6.5 hours sleep ? that was good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

abacus ultra mega multi update (or the abacus omnibus)

so on friday abacus went to have her echo done,which is a heart test where two nurses who seem to have no heart between them prod deeply into her stomach up under her rib cage with a sonagram device to search for any holes there may be in her heart, while they talk banally about personal and social things amongst themselves, like what each other is going to do this weekend, completely negating our presence who might have liked to have known what they were actually doing and what any of it meant for us. I think Abacus acted way more grown up, she was very patient considering the test coincided with her feed and she was starving. We amused her with gadgets that played electronic nursery rhymes that sounded like videogame theme songs, and flashed bright lights, as the room was kept dark the whole time. I don't know when we'll get the results, apparently we were all just props in the procedure.
Later that day Abacus came to work drinks with us and had a royally fun time, chugging her milk along with us. Then after returning home for a quick change she came out with us to a japanese restaurant where she slept in my arms while i ate, and realised how awesome an invention chopsticks actually are, you can eat with one hand!! i'd never even considered that before. Not much happened on saturday, except that she loves to sleep in the front pack, it's instant, something to do with the position of being stuck amongst the straps?
Sunday she went on her biggest drive ever, as we escaped on our first trip away since having her, to wanganui. And we quickly realised what it's like packing for a baby, and how small our car suddenly seemed. She slept pretty much the whole way, through the sun and through the driving rain, through the incident on the bridge where a gigantic truck was coming towards us spraying a wall of water about 10 feet high whose inevitable impact we had to brace ourselves for and just continue driving blindly through, slept through all the rain and wind in the horowhenua, which looks as though it has been cast under the spell of some permanent storm for months, where giant trees, pulled out by the roots, lay in the fields like plucked weeds. And slept through evans "Orsum" burger, which he bought in turakina, when he asked, what's the difference between the orsum burger and the works burger, he got the reply, they're exactly the same, except the works burger doesn't have steak. hahahaha. this thing had steak, bacon, a meat patty, an egg, beetroot, pineapple . . . after devouring it, he was able to wash his hands in the rain passing by at 100km/h outside the car window. Abacus was a bit unsettled after arriving in Wanganui, we took her for a walk and fed her and changed her, in the end we just lay her down on the floor and realised she just wanted to be left alone - easy fix. She slept well through our merriment and rabble, Danielle and Evan were supposed to go skiing on monday, but the roads had been closed up there due to 3 days of heavy snow, but they were supposed to be open again in the afternoon. Mum text and said she wouldn't mind coming to wanganui to see abacus and I was like, well if you're coming here, maybe you could take her with you and I'll go skiing too. And so that what happened. Abacus went away to hang out at mums creche and with her cousins and aunty and great grandmother, and we hit the paraparas, a little jaded but not too bad, we saw baby goats on the side of the road aparently by themselves, but when we stopped, they ran back behind the fence to where their mother was waiting. We listened to a cooking show on the radio which made us starving but we were soon in ohakune and eating a burger and fries and corn fritters and coffees . Then we went to venture up the mountain, but an electronic sign said - road closed everything on hold, and we're like um? let's just keep going. There was snow down lower than I've ever seen it before, all over the trees, it made them look like some alien Dr. Seuss world, and then there was a sign that said chains required which was bad, but then there was a sign that said chains for hire, and that was good! So we asked if there was anything open and they said it just opened!!!!! there was so few people up there and three days of untouched fresh snow, which was still powder come 4pm. The weather cleared up with a bit of snow in between, but it was an awesome day. When we picked up Abacus in Palmerston North a few hours later she was at her great grandmothers kicking around on the floor, she had had a great day too. We left in the rain and once more she fell asleep quickly, slept right through the insane hail storm that turned the road white with black tyre marks cutting paths through it, it continued for miles turning the small towns white like the mountain we'd left behind us. We listened to some moron on national radio with no idea of history trying to interview someone about china and soon we were home again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm pretty sure Abacus is getting way better at tracking objects, i've been doing the exercises with her flash cards. Yesterday she met her uncle who came over from Burlingame for a week.

We're thinking of discontinuing the Plunket service. The plunket (nurse?) visited yesterday and cemented all the stereotypes of the service, even our pediatrician had stated that Plunket had dumbed down its service to the point of irrelavancy. I thought Danielle should have dismissed her by saying I have to go turn in the assignment I just wrote on the over medicalisation of societies - which she had just written, an interesting account of colonisation and the Pima Indians. It's like Plunket just expects women to be home all day so they can come and talk to you in accusing tones, as though we are merely minding a child owned by society, surrogate parents to a cog in the machine - sorry this is starting to sound like my other blog. She came to visit me at work which is always nice, then we had to beat the rain home and outrun the wind which blew icy gusts in her face. We had an early night watching the lightning explode in sharp light like burning magnesium outside. She slept 6 hours her first stint.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

no news is no news

Sorry to disappoint you all, but nothing news worthy happened today, except that danielle and I both went on marrathon efforts to finish our respective essays and lab assignments, abacus watched patiently from the wings. though i did continue her tracking exercises and she's definately getting better at that. but now i'm really tired, and still have essay left, but you don't care, you only care about how great abacus is. which is fair enough, because she's really great.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

don't try the formula

so we tried some of her formula, and it's nasty, i don't know how she drinks that stuff. I did some eye and head tracking exercises with her high contrast flash cards and she did really well, even holding her head centered for a while. You just have to catch her when she's all chillaxed, we also noticed that she seems to favour looking to one side when she's laying down, so I've tried a few things like orienting her play mat so that she practices looking other places.

That's about all that happened. Her hair's getting a we bit darker and she looks cuter and cuter with her face getting round and plump.

Monday, August 11, 2008

moving madness

This morning the visiting neurodevelopmental therapist, well, visited. This time Abacus was awake so she could actually do some assessments. She did a lot of tracking exercises, where she had Abacus try to focus on something and move either her eyes or head as she moved it across her field of view. She was really impressed with Abacus' physical development and wants us to continue on and do a bit more with her concentrating and focusing. and have her practice holding her head centered. She's really nice with a laugh which sustained the awkwardness it filled just a little too long. Just now Abacus and I watched someone win a gold medal in judo for running away from her opponent hrm. Abacus had a bath tonight, after helping us in a dubious mission to return furniture which had me pressed between a huge pane of glass and an open car door as a held a couch on top of the car - we weren't going far, Abacus pateiently watched all the madness from her car-seat. She always loves her bath, i'm sure her first smile will come while taking one, she always looks so close when she's in there splashing about. Ok so now it's fencing on TV ? and people are actually cheering ? I think it's time for bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

a nice day

I was just a bit too tired last night tio live up to my daily 4am promise. Abacus had a really good day, it was a beautiful day for walking and so she went walking. Danielle took her to the beach in the morning where she saw a mother with a 3 year old son with down syndrome, so she bowled on up and introduced herself by saying "your son is beautiful, I have a daughter with downs syndrome!" it turns out the mother is in charge of the coffee mornings for the downs society. The little boy was an awesome little kid, with grazes all over his face, further proof of his awesomeness! Then Abacus started to getting a bit cryee, the pacifier I had bought to get her through the night, was just a bit to fat for her mouth and she couldn't hold it in, so we went in search of a replacement. We ended up buying 3, hoping one would work - and one did! So she was much happier after that. We went home, but with this rare perfect day slotted amongst the wintry rain lately, we decided to go back out. I took her in the front pack, which we'd not really used yet, she fell asleep almost as soon as I started walking and stayed asleep through our whole walk over the mountain and down to the beach for an iced coffee. Then her "god"mother came for dinner (Danielle made beef wellington - it was awesome!) she is going back to Vanuatu to complete her documentation and research of a language there, Abacus will be so different when she returns.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Poor little Abacus braved the icy antarctic winds today wrapped in blankets in her sling to get to the supermarket and home again. Without her dummy it's been hard to get her settled and so she spent a lot of the day unsettled and awake. At one point, I thought her crying may have been because of hunger and so I gave her a bottle, which she greedily downed, then when I stopped to burp her she projectile vomited all over me! It was the first time she had done that. So it was time to clean her up and put her in a caterpiller suit - a dress thing which ties up at the bottom - that danielle found after reorganising all of abacus' millions of clothes she's acquired, i think none of which we have bought! During the big clean out she came across a couple of things, like this little pink vest, which I couldn't believe she used to fit, if we thought she looks doll sized now, this thing looked like it dressed a dolls doll. I finally braved the icy rain which had barricaded us in all day to go in search of a new dummy, but of course while I was out getting it she had finally fallen asleep. She seems to like it now though.

Friday, August 8, 2008

the shutupmaker shriveled up

Oh no! Abacus' dummy/pacifier/shutupmaker thing, has somehow melted ? hehe. It's shriveled up and deflated, I'm not sure how, click here for photo. It has "Happy" written on it but everything about it says sad. She had a weirdo day today, demanding a lot of attention ALL the time and stayed awake from midday to about 8 or something ? She also almost doubled her feeds. She's so greedy now, hopefully she's going to start packing on the pounds. She still hasn't smiled yet, but we're pretty sure she's happy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

blue

So the other day a nurse, when talking about Abacus, asked "how is he" um she, we correct her, "oh, you're trying to trick me with her blue sweater" "um no you tricked yourself with your narrow idiotic nonsensical ideas" we didn't really reply with that, but we both thought it, it's pretty amazing that the world still colour codes gender, and besides Abacus looks hella hot in blue.

We're really hoping she will be smiling soon, it should be happening around now, she's always done goofy burp smiles but never a real smile.

Also, she sleeps with her arms stretched through the bars of her crib or sometimes holding on to them which is pretty cute.

We're going back to bed now. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

i'm updating sheehs

ok so i apologise for my slack updating lately and have decided that I will update it every 4am feed (take that mahmoud ahmadinejad and your measly 15 minutes a week click here for reference), i've just been a bit overloaded with a billion things.

So first of all we've found it amazing how you can't wash coffee stains and stuff out of clothes, but with the exact same washing powder can wash actual shit out of cloth nappies(diapers) which are pretty much just towels and they came out pristine white, without a trace of their dirty secret.

Next, Abacus' neck control has gotten freakishly awesome, not only can she hold her head up for ages, but she can also gently lower it down without headbutting your chest which, coupled with her bald head, had earned her the nickname zinedine zidane (click here for reference) and just to further distance herself from that association, she's started growing hair! Though I like her bald head because it's such a good shape, she now has a slight, but definite soft coating of hair, and her eye brows are darkening too. She's drinking more and doing good 5-6 her sleeping stints at night which is easing up our day time exhaustion. Her grip is getting better too and she occasionally drags objects to her mouth. She is much more aware now making eye contact as she checks everyone out.

She hung out with me in the office the other day which was fun and she cried a lot less than some of my coworkers. But for now we are going to go back to bed, the olympics will be starting soon which will take away bbc world as my midnight companion, it was gone this morning replaced by beijing tests, boring.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If ever men feel the pangs of sexual discrimination it is in parenthood. Especially among older women, though not exclusively, the subtle undermining by comments and actions is bewildering, as they try to usurp knowledge of your own child - if you are acknowledged at all. It happened yesterday and not for the first time, as we took Abacus for her next round of immunisations, the nurse aligned quickly with Danielle and I was as nonexistent as an absentee father. The funny thing was though, at one point I went to check Abacus nappy (diaper) which was clean, later Danielle said she thinks the smell was actually the nurses breath.

On Tuesday Abacus went to visit a new baby at the maternity ward, where she'd previously only been in utero where we knew her only as a heart beat, he was a few hours old and already bigger than her!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

further evidence that abacus is AWESOME

Today Abacus had a meeting with the pediatrician in the neonates ward. We had been worried that he was just going to tell us stuff we already knew - and he did, that Abacus is AWESOME. I wasn't able to go, but Danielle said that it went really well, and that he's a really good doctor.

He loved Abacus and remembered her from the ward, he loves her name. He's really impressed with her progress saying that her feeding and muscle tone are good indicators of her intelligence, and that she is doing better than most babies of her age and prematurity, so she should have a bright future ahead of her. She was really patient as he checked her heart and he thinks she has a really positive and happy personality. He said not to listen to what people say, which we probably already know, he was just the perfect sort of personality for our situation, the type of maverick doctor role required for any story of this type.

We are sooooooo happy for this news. We are in such a good mood and are so excited for Abacus, I wanted to throw her a party but all she could have is milk, and she'd have that anyway. She has another appointment in October after her heart test, I can't wait to meet him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

abacus goes to university

Sunday night was probably the hardest yet with Abacus awakening every 2 hours for food. The next night we put her to bed at 11 and I awoke at 2:30 wondering why she hadn't awoken!

Abacus has become steeped in intellectualism, yesterday she attended a lecture on native American sign language stowed discretely in Danielle's sling, from where the occasional squeek escaped as she slept. Later she hung out in the linguistics department for an hour or so, much to everyones delight, assisting her godmother in writing her phd, while Danielle attended a seminar.

That night she went to meet her second cousins, lets just say cousins for ease. It was pouring icy rain in a howling gale as we weaved our way through peak hour traffic to their house, at one point taking evasive action to avoid a crazy big rig that pulled out in front of us. Her cousins loved her so much, they petted her as she fed. Then we raided their old baby stuff and got some awesome helpful things (thanks Susan and Sean!), while we did that Hazel and Iris played with Abacus in a dolls bed, she actually fit in it! They had so much fun playing with their real life doll, and Abacus liked it too, she stayed awake through the whole visit, which must have worn her out because then she slept for about 5 hours ! I'm not used sleeping so long!

Monday, July 21, 2008

visits

abacus had a weekend of visiting and luncheoning with friends.
We drove everywhere to avoid the driving rain and every time we stopped at the lights she started crying and as soon as we moved again she chillaxed. She loved going through the Hataitai tunnel, the intermittent bands of bright light punctuating the darkness made her eyes bulge with interest and she turned her head from side to side to not miss any of the action. She was on her best behaviour while visiting, keeping her little cries to a minimum and mainly just feeding and sleeping, she gets on really well with new people, I hope that sustains through development.

She's grown into some of her really cool clothes now and almost right back out of them again! I'm not surprised as she's also taken to waking every 2 hours to eat !!! So our sleep has been reduced to the sum of naps collected between her feeds. But as I write this, weary after a night of such disturbed sleep, she's sleeping beside me and has been for the last 4 hours !!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

an email

since fidning out about Abacus being trisomy 21, we've been put in contact with so many people who have experience with other people with trisomy 21 through both formal and random interactions, and they're all so supportive. The following is an amazing email from an awesome mother danielle was put in contact with through her tutor.

Dear Danielle,

Abacus is so lucky! You're such a young mother, yet you're so wise and you've made a fantastic start.

First: you WON'T be devoting every moment to your 'disabled' child. That was definitely a fear I had and at 27 had no desire to devote the rest of my life to self sacrifice in that manner. Thank heaven that's not at all how it turned out. I think among the most important realisations that came to me (probably encouraged by some sensible well-wisher) was to take each day as it came and not to dwell on the future. I found that absolutely liberating.

Obviously, people like you and me DO think about the future. We wouldn't have managed to plod through degrees etc without that future orientation. But there's a difference between constructive preparation and being weighed down by anxiety.

Another vital piece of information for me came from a psychologist I met a grand total of once. He was the one who set me on the path of helping Jamie develop much better than would otherwise have been the case. What I remember so clearly from him were two pieces of advice. One was that Jamie would be likely to be placid and be happy to lie hour upon hour in his cot. I should resist the temptation to let him do that, but should ensure that he received good levels of stimulation. I took that advice to heart and I'm so glad I did.

The second piece of information was that I shouldn't settle for unnecessarily low levels of achievement. He said that (remember this was 35 years ago) researchers would go into institutions, put a book in front of someone with DS, find they couldn't read it and conclude that people with DS weren't capable of reading. He said, "Nobody had ever tried to teach them!" So I bore that in mind.

Three years later, when Jamie's speech therapist suggested to me that if I taught him to read, it might help his spoken language, I privately thought she was crazy, but set about doing it. I devised a really effective and simple and fun system, which I'll be delighted to share with you if and when you're interested, later.

Jamie became a really, really good reader and that opened up every door, subsequently. So I'm hugely grateful for that one encounter with one uniquely encouraging individual.

I really identify with what you say about the kind of people you mix with – bookish, word-minded, interested in the world. We too. The wonderful thing, as it's turned out, is that Jamie has 'imbibed' from his environment a comfort with that sort of milieu. He has developed his own particular interests that have greatly surprised us. He was a pioneer in DS terms at Auckland Grammar School and just loved learning history. He actually won a prize for achievement in history. The things that most fascinated him were the build up to the Second World War and everything to do with President Kennedy, Cuba, assassination etc. So he's our family expert on those things.

For me, the most amazing time was when his younger brother, David, who is known by us to be the brightest person in our family (now a lawyer in New York, gggrr!!) had left till the last minute a project he had to do for 5th form history. It was due in the next day. I was tired and wanted to go to bed, but couldn't leave David to struggle alone. Then I remembered Jamie, who was lying on his stomach in the family room watching TV. David had to complete a time-line about the time preceding WW2. I remember yelling out to Jamie, "Jamie, when was the Reichstag fire?". The answer came back immediately. "Jamie, when was the Anschluss into Austria?" The answer came back immediately. "Jamie, when was...." And the answers, accurate, came back immediately. The time-line was completed fast!

Jamie is our resident expert on elections in New Zealand and the United States. If we're home late-ish and there's been a poll result, he'll give it, with the greatest accuracy. He has worked out possible Cabinet places in the event of a National or a Labour Government. He goes on to the websites and ensures he's up to date.

I remember my mother and her sister, both in their 80s, having a dispute about the dates of the Boer War. Mum phoned Jamie to settle it!!

It's not all heavy. He's up to date with 'Shortland Street', too, and just loves a number of 'soaps'.

Our other children went to Hebrew School – the Sunday morning session to learn Hebrew and some religious knowledge. We wanted Jamie to go too, for integration purposes. We didn't have any expectations. It turned out that he picked up Hebrew reading very fast and is still faster than I am at it. He also picked up grammatical structures, so that he could ensure agreement in gender and number. That amazed me. He's probably lost that latter capacity for lack of practice. But at Grammar School, he was one of the better ones in his class at French. He's probably lost that, too, now.

So – no lack of talents and no difficulty in fitting in with a group of people of the kind you describe. If we're playing Scrabble, we'll usually pair Jamie with someone. Same with Trivial Pursuit, but somehow there's no problem. And his grasp of the world plus his natural social graces mean that he can mix very widely. If and when the conversation is puzzling to him he simply sits quietly, but never offers comments that are out of place.

Anyway, I must return to duller things, but I wanted to respond to you as soon as I felt well enough to sit in front of the computer for a while.

Do please keep in touch, Danielle. Warmest regards to you, to your partner and to the lucky little Abacus!

sleep? what's that?

today the plunket nurse came to visit. I was just leaving as she was arriving and I saw she was a bit lost so introduced myself and told her how to find our flat, then as I went to bike off this look of, I guess what would be fear, swept across her face as she said "but who's looking after Abacus???" So anyway, she met with Danielle and Abacus and it seems the main point from the meeting is that Abacus weighed in at 3280g. She's been a bit grisly today which isn't really like her, but we slept her on her belly and closely monitored her as they would do on the ward and she slept for ages, she even slept when we picked her up and put her on her back in her bed. So it's probably gas related.

we'd joked about a blog that was just "awake and feed her and sleep three hours, awake and feed her and sleep three hours . . ." written about 200 times and all the photos would be of those words written all over the walls of our flat. So how it goes is, after a night of the above we awake and Danielle leaves for university at about 8:30 and I go to the lounge to work from home which is juggled with feeding Abacus some more and myself and comforting her and changing her and myself as I prepare for the change over at 10:30 when danielle arrives home and I leave to get to uni by 11 for an hour lecture before arriving at the office at just after 12 to work until my lab at 3 which is back at uni for 2 hours and then back to the office and then leave for home by about 630 And meanwhile danielle is juggling study and Abacus and meetings with plunket.(lack of punctuation is intentional - there is no punctuation in our routine) . Have we taken on a bit too much? Today it feels like it and I just wanted to exorcise the exhaustion from my system somehow. But everything balances out eventually.

Monday, July 14, 2008

mail time.

Today all the mail we got was addressed to Abacus Catan.

One was for an appointment with the pediatrician who was assigned to Abacus during her month long stay in hospital - with whom we never met during that time. There are clearly massive flaws within the system. And we are honestly a little skeptical about the appointment, the anticipation of meeting with someone who knows Abacus only through notes submitted as a composite opinion of various nurses, coupled with our previous experience of such medical professionals making judgements based soley on her condition and not her as an individual, we feel it is going to be yet another meeting where we are told everything we already know, adhered with generalisations. And honestly does she need this? Does she need to spend her formative years surrounded by doctors assessing her and comparing her and enforcing the idea of her condition as a sickness? Obviously we want her to have all the help she can get, but also only the help she needs, and where do you make that distinction? We have many questions. But lets see what he says. And no cars this time, (they sent us another "parking permit") we're going by foot.

The second letter was very good news.
It was from Learning Media, and was addressed to Abacus "the cuteness" Catan and contained four $25 Just Kids gift vouchers "for some new digs" as payment for her participation in the photoshoot for their brochure, along with a note thanking her for helping them. It was signed "Liz (that wierdo lady)" We don't think you're wierd Liz!!! And thanks so much to you and Jodi.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

ah, fun with babies

Abacus loves getting out and about, whether it's in her stroller or being held, she just loves being on the move. Her stroller is like bed on wheels and reminds me of a scene in some michel gondry movie. When she's being held she loves seeing what's going on all around her, particularly above her. She also loves being comet girl - when she blasts off in standing position and flies around, the cutest part is how she moves her eyes in the direction of where she's going.

I finally put her mobile up but it still need some serious work. I need to add some high contrast to it to get her center surround receptive fields firing. It's way too light at the moment for her low spatial frequencies.

She's been playing a few practical jokes on people too. Well at least assisted us in playing some but she's a real good sport in them. Danielle and her were hiding from my niece Amelia the other day and then we heard Abacus' little noises give them away, then the next thing you just see Abacus head peak out from around the corner at adult eye level, it was pretty hilarious.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

outgrown!

Abacus has outgrown her first piece of clothing. Yay! Another milestone. Her head is fast approaching the other end of her wee crib, and her arms are reaching further through the bars, like alice in wonderland in that house scene. And so she is quickly growing into all of her newborn clothes, it seems as though the inundation of clothes we received early on will quickly run to a trickle.

Her neck control is getting so good. We give her a lot of "tummy time" and she is lifting her head and holding it for ages looking all around. The neurodevelopmental therapist also sent us some laminated black and white flash cards and she enjoys staring at them, especially the one of the cat.

Also last night she met her cousins for the first time and seemed to have a good time. She stayed up for ages with them.