ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Snow day

Today, we were going to travel home from our Christmas visit to Ordinary Spouse’s parents.

Then winter storm Hercules came trucking down I-80.

The snow forecast for Hercules
Hercules dropped snow all along our route.

We tried to leave, but things looked bad almost immediately. We couldn’t even get enough traction to turn out of the subdivision. And within a couple of miles, we decided to abort the 400 mile trip, because the forecasts hinted at nastiness all the way from Indiana to Pennsylvania. Five miles and thirty minutes later, we were back where we started.

A trip thwarted
The instrument panel testifies to our failed trip.

So we spent the day inside playing cornhole. Hooray for Christmas presents!

We’ll try this trip again tomorrow.


Saying good-bye

(In which we get emotional and anthropomorphize our van.)

After nine years and 150,000 miles, we are saying good-bye to our van…

Our last photoIt joined our family in 2004 when there were only four of us, and the next year it took us to North Carolina.

And in a symmetric (and poetic) twist that only a scientist could love, the van took us to North Carolina a second time – a year before this good-bye. In between, we picked up a third passenger for the back seat.

The van was photographed quite a bit through the years. Interestingly, it was the occupants of the back seats that took the most pictures…

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Farewell, faithful van! Maybe you’ll be reincarnated as a future vehicle of ours somewhere down the road.


Cambodia – Our Extraordinary Trip

The ordinary family
That's us!

Three months ago, my family and my wife’s parents travelled from Chicago to Cambodia to visit The Guests Complacent (my brother-in-law’s family). We spent two weeks at the end of November exploring Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Mesang, and Kampong Som.

In the time that we’ve been home since then, I’ve had a blast blogging about the trip and remembering all the fun things that we did. Alas, I have no more stories to share, but I wanted to gather everything together, so that I can keep remembering. Here it is…

Pre-trip: counting down the days

Starting out

Phnom Penh

Siem Reap

Phnom Penh (again)


Kampong Som

Phnom Penh (last time)

Coming home


Cambodia 2011

Cambodia, appendix 3 – Favorite pictures

I took roughly 1200 pictures in Cambodia. If you throw in those that Ordinary Spouse and my mother-in-law took, we may have come home with 3000. Here are most of my favorites.

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Cambodia, appendix 1 – Tying up some loose ends

I’ve mostly finished telling the story of my family’s visit to Cambodia last November, but there are a few more things I wanted to write (this post) and a few more pictures that I wanted to show (the next two posts).

A word of thanks…

My brother and sister-in-law and nephew hosted our ordinary family of five and the parents/grandparents for two whole weeks. I know it was tiring, but we really appreciated it. As two months of blog posts should show, it was wonderful. Thanks!

Also, thanks to my parents-in-law for helping us to get there. 🙂

What would I have done differently?

In general, I might have been a little less paranoid about what I ate and drank. Then again, my digestive system had two “interesting” weeks anyway. Nevertheless, those interesting weeks are nearly forgotten now (just like the sunburn/iced coffee incident from eleven years ago).

However, I have thought of three specific things that I would change:

  • A group photo with my brother-in-law’s host family – One of my fondest memories is the meal that we ate in Mesang. Eleven years ago we took a photo with everyone, but this time we didn’t get one before we left. But family ties are important, and I’m sorry that we forgot to take that picture. This one ranks first on the list.
  • Exploring all of Ta Prohm – While my family was exploring this wonderful and mysterious temple, I was looking for a geocache in one corner of the place. I wasn’t able to find the cache, and I missed seeing some of the best parts of the temple. Now it turns out that the geocache wasn’t even there anymore. (In some ways, that’s a good thing. I hate it when I can’t find something that actually is there.) This would be a bigger regret, but I saw the temple during our last visit before it was made famous by “Tomb Raider”.
  • A visit to Tuol Sleng – Perhaps you may find this odd. Why would I want to visit this notorious prison? To be sure, I had no desire to take my girls there. But as for myself, I wish, in some small way, to remember the lives the were lost, both in the prison and also throughout the country.

What has changed in eleven years?

Ordinary Spouse, her parents, and I visited Cambodia in January of 2001. Many things were as we remembered them. For example, Phnom Penh has a distinctive smell all its own. I think it’s a mixture of prahok, cooking fires, incense, traffic, and other random hints of city life.

But there were a few things that have changed…

  • The main roads were better – We could drive to Siem Reap this time. Last time, it was plane or boat.
  • Cell phone coverage seemed to be everywhere – Even on Lake Tonlé Sap.
  • Internet access is impressive (at least in some places) – The Guests Complacent have faster speeds than we do.
  • “Lexus” is a status symbol – It seemed like everyone who could afford a car wanted to drive a Lexus.
  • Siem Reap felt more “tourist-y” – Interestingly, Phnom Penh didn’t feel very different to me.
  • The country as a whole felt a bit more stable – The last time we were there, the country was only a few years removed from some significant government upheaval.

Up next: A few more random bits

Cambodia, part 20 – Returning home

Well – after more than two months of blogging, it’s time to clear the shoes from in front of the door and bring the story of my family’s trip to Cambodia to a close…

All the shoes at The Guests Complacent's home

I’m sure that there was much more room at the front door after we left.

It ‘s hard waiting around all day for a late-night flight. We had managed to do a few things to keep busy during the day (a trip to USA Donut and to the Russian Market), but by supper time there wasn’t much left to do but twiddle our thumbs (and take one last evening shower to cool off after the heat and humidity of the day). After a round of farewells, we hopped in the van at around 9 p.m. Wednesday for one final trip. Last stop: Phnom Penh International Airport.

It’s hard taking a red-eye flight with children who generally go to bed around 8:30 p.m. Indeed, Youngest Daughter fell asleep, so we loaded her on the luggage cart and wheeled her around the airport.

Luggage cart

Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.

Well… we wheeled her around until the officials at customs and immigration split up Ordinary Spouse and me. And they made Ordinary Spouse take the girls. That may have been the hardest part of the trip for her – trying to get three children and some carry-on luggage through the airport by herself. Eventually, I caught up with her and was able to help again.

The wait at the gate seemed to go on forever, but I guess that is how the wait for international flights always feels. Eventually we boarded (only a little late!), and shortly after midnight we were on our way to Seoul.

Gate pass

I think that we all managed to get some sleep during that flight, but Youngest Daughter may have been the only one who actually felt rested when we arrived in Korea on Thursday morning. We rested in a quiet part of the airport (the second level is wonderful!) until our next flight. My single goal was to visit a Starbucks, just so that I could say that I’d been to one overseas…

Find your favorite cup!
Find your favorite cup!

They would accept U.S. dollars, but change was in won. That was just fine with me – I wanted some Korean money – so I used cash rather than credit. Oldest Daughter and I both ordered a peppermint mocha…

Starbucks receipt

And we also purchased some souvenirs…

Starbucks Korea demi mugs

Elsewhere in the airport, my mother-in-law and older daughters visited the Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center. (It doesn’t matter where we go – we’re still in school.) Middle and Oldest Daughters made dolls that they got to bring home…

Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center

Fun and learning at Incheon

And some of us just slept.


Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.

Finally, it was time for the final flight. Let’s be on our way.

Our plane to Chicago

It seemed to me that on both return flights, we had more turbulence than we did on the way over. The disconcerting feeling of being bounced around seven miles up in the air was made easier by the fact that we seemed to have a really strong tailwind speeding our trip. At one point, the information screen said that we were moving along at over 700 miles per hour. I’ve never seen a speed that high. I also noticed that we didn’t quite follow the great circle route between Soeul and Chicago. My guess is that they wanted to get into the jet stream.

Late Thursday evening, we crossed the international date line – back to Wednesday. But by the time we landed in Chicago, it was Thursday again, so our trip went Wednesday-Thursday-Wednesday-Thursday. The final run through customs and immigration seemed to go much better, especially when Youngest Daughter acted grumpy for the customs agent. Perhaps she felt sorry for us. In any case, we zipped through…

Waiting for our ride home

And on the other side of customs, we were delighted by another stretch limo to take us back home. It was the same driver that had taken us to the airport two weeks earlier!

Sleepy riders

And so ends a vacation to remember for the rest of our lives. Jack and Lexi were glad to welcome us home.

Jack is happy to have his family home

The end.

Well – that’s not quite the end. But almost. I’ll take on a few more posts to tie up some loose ends. Then it will be time to get back to blogging the routine stuff.

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