This has been a year of settling in to new alternatives. After the disappointments of 2001, when we left the US and came to Thailand – we thought temporarily – we have ended up staying in Bangkok and are working towards being more settled here.
In June Neil found work with IBM based in Thailand for an Asia Pacific role. With that level of permanence we have similarly started to put down some roots. We bought a house, a car, Roger & Rex are in an international school, Usa bought a truck and has started a realtor business.
The year started on a positive note when we resolved one of our issues from 2001 with Roger starting at the Ruamrudee International School (RIS) in Bangkok. RIS is an accredited school in the US, so we hope we've made a good choice. RIS is a mid-priced international school in Bangkok that teaches the American curriculum.
RIS was very cautious about allowing Roger to enter 2nd grade in the mid year. However, after an entrance exam (of 44 pages) his results were enough to convince them that 2nd grade was the right place and he could catch up with the other students. When we received this news Roger was beaming – he was very proud of himself. He made it quite clear that he only wanted to go to an English speaking school and RIS was one of a limited available pool. After a short adjustment period Roger was identified as being in the top third of the class by the end of the school year. He is now progressing well in Grade 3.
Rex also started kindergarten at RIS mid year. He was challenged to gain entry by RIS' strict requirements, which are equal to the KG graduation criteria for students in the US. To enter KG at RIS the children must be able to count from 1 – 30, say the alphabet, identify numbers from 0-9, letters from A – Z, recognize shapes & colors and describe a picture. We wonder what's left to learn in kindergarten!? Even now, mid way through the KG year, Rex cannot do many of these things. He can say the alphabet, count from 1-10 and 20-30; but he has trouble recognizing letters of the alphabet and counting in the teens. The interesting thing is that according to Rex's KG teacher his development is normal and she feels he is doing well. Maybe no-one told her of the entry requirements!
School starts at 7:10am and ends at 2:20pm. To get there they are picked up by a school bus at 6:05am. They get up at 5:30am and get home around 3:45pm. Then Roger has homework every day that usually keeps him busy until 4:30-5pm. Rex has homework every 2nd day. Boy, with a schedule like that I'm sure glad I'm not 8 or 5 years old!
Roger and Rex are different in their learning styles. Roger is the most committed learner we have seen. He loves science; he is the only 8 year old we know who says his ambition is to be a scientist. He has forgotten more about outer space, the solar system, the earth, volcanoes, hurricanes, the water cycle, dinosaurs and fossils than most people have learned. He has Magic School Bus everything – books, videos, PC games and projects. He reads the catalogs and immediately lets his impoverished parents know about any title he doesn’t have, providing us with encouragement to go out and buy it for him. (At last count Roger was horrified that there are 3 Magic School Bus videos that we don't have!) He is very detailed in his learned approach. He reads a lot; he constantly reviews things and has excellent comprehension.
On the other hand, Rex seems to be a conceptual learner. We were recently amazed when we was doing some homework focusing on recognizing letters. We mentioned above that he isn’t recognizing the alphabet – maybe half of the letters. Yet, when he had to point out words embedded in text, he had no trouble at all. And these words included letters he constantly fails to recognize.
The year ended with a school play where everyone has a role. Roger was part of a group singing in his grade's performance. Rex was one of about 10 singing and dancing Santa Clauses in his KG group.
Usa and Neil have been married for 10 years. In that time Usa has been prevented from working in Singapore, Indonesia and the US. So now that we are back in her country she wants to take advantage of being a local and has started her own business. RUNR Realtor will make us all millions. The name, by the way, comes from our names – Roger, Usa, Neil and Rex.
This year we dabbled in some impressionist paintings. At great expense we took some of our favorite photos to a local painter & asked for them to be made into impressionist images. We're proud of the results:
By now you'll probably realize we are just having some fun ... they are just some of our favorite photos changed using a photo editor to make them look like Impressionist paintings. But we had fun doing it.
After a year of consolidations we are all looking forward to 2003, which looks to be a bit too interesting. With the US, UK and Australia all seeming to favor war in Iraq we fear the outrage spreading in other Islamic countries and wonder whether there will be a broader war. And those pesky North Koreans might take the opportunity to cause a bit more trouble, too. So if at the end of 2003 we can say that we are safe, sound, healthy and employed that would seem to the best we could hope for.
Best wishes for the New Year.
The Gambles in Bangkok