A family from California moves to Ho Chi Minh City. Hilarity ensues.
For some reason our school decided to give us a four-day weekend; to celebrate we accepted an invitation to join a few other families staying in a longhouse next to Cát Tiên National Park. After a 3+ hour (chartered) bus ride we had to walk about a mile to the place, which actually made the destination a bit more exotic.
The hike to the longhouse included a suspension bridge (fun!) but not our luggage (even more fun!), which was transported by motorbike trailer.
Those mosquito nets will come in plenty handy…
Upon arriving the nine kids immediately broke up into tribes, painted their faces, and explored the grounds. Rather than devolving into Lord of the Flies, it actually seemed fairly cooperative. The Eldest and his 4th grade pal have just finished reading Bridge to Terabithia in class, and created their own “imaginary world in the forest where we could do anything and be anything,” which they named Mithia. Thank you, great children’s literature!
After a raging bonfire, some delicious roasted marshmallows, and a bit of a singalong and card games for the grownups, it was time to see how well the mosquito nets work. Answer: very well indeed!
Day two started out with a bit of cycling for the male Schnacks and pals. (The ladies’ bike decided to be persnickety so they had to turn back.)
The cycle route included a trail in between two semi-flooded rice fields. After a calf was gently talked into moving off of the trail…
…a pair of more menacing water buffaloes gave us the evil eye.
Luckily, they were all look and no charge.
“Hey, kids, pose near that cow over there.” For some reason The Big O thinks that “pose” means “walk like an Egyptian.”
And now to cool off in some mud.
Wait! How muddy are you going to get?
Oh, I see. That muddy.
All of this mud, and somehow we managed to attract absolutely zero leeches. Go, Schnacks!
After “cleaning off” in the dark brown water. “Hey, you missed part of your mud mustache.”
Time for a rest? No! It’s time for a hike around the lake! Just me and my kiddos, plus a couple of extras. (They’re Canadian, so they were extra polite.)
Our plan to char more marshmallows was rained out, so instead we enjoyed dinner with 37,495,096,076,875,463,265 flying termites flapping around us. Supposedly the first rain after a dry spell brings them out to fly aimlessly, drop their wings (on freaking everything), and mate. Seems like a waste to me. If I had wings I wouldn’t drop them right after I started to use them. That said, while those who know me can attest that I am no fan of flying insects, these critters were categorically better than the unnaturally loud cicadas which performed such astounding acts as repeatedly dropping out of trees onto my head and flying into my face between bites of dinner. I just can’t respect an insect that has the gift of flight but manages to use it so poorly. And the mosquito nets over each of our beds were everyone’s best friends on this night of the living exoskeleton.
That’s not blurry near the light. That’s a cloud of winged protein. Our colleague Sam offered, “these are the nights that the geckos wish they had refrigerators.”
The final morning started at 3:43 for me and two equally insane companions. We had made a pact to travel into Cát Tiên and experience the song of the local gibbons at dawn. The predawn ride in the back of a pickup truck included headlight-lit sightings of many deer and even more potholes in one of the poorer roads I’ve experienced in Southeast Asia, which is saying something.
While the songs seemed to have been rained out by the previous day’s storm (we may have heard a bit from a distance), the hike was nice and we did manage to see a family of gibbons with a baby waaaaaaaaaaay up in a rather large tree. They seem to have a few of those around here.
A meet-up with the rest of the group for breakfast was arranged before heading over to Dao Tien island, a sanctuary for rescued gibbons.
On the boat ride back one of the offspring decided to act like a gibbon.
And then it was time for the hike back to the bus. The last day of our weekend was spent catching up on grading, broken up only by staring off into space daydreaming of rice fields.