Mad World

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Photo taken at Falling back to Earth (GOMA, Brisbane)

A couple of weekends ago, whilst driving to Bunnings (an Australian hardware superstore) on an emergency plumbing  mission, my iPod randomly started playing, Mad World* and I found myself on the side of the road gulping through heaving tears of overwhelmed exhaustion.

Enough!

The outburst, obviously necessary, lasted a short while and I soon pulled myself together enough to finish my journey and mission.  We now have a working washing machine, not to mention transformers for all our ‘asian plugs’, a high pressure hose, paint, glue and a compost bin for the back yard…my personal version of retail therapy!

Yes, finally, we have moved from our temporary accommodation into a place to call our own, at least for a little while.   Despite our best efforts and a close call, we didn’t find a home to buy. Then our ‘stuff’ arrived from Lao prompting the need for a quick decision so, for now, we are shacking up in a cheap and cheerful rental house with lots of bedrooms, creaky pipes and sloping floors and a possum living in the ceiling (though some nights I think perhaps it is an elephant or family of hippos hosting an all night rave up there).  

As it happens the place has a lovely energy about it, despite being old and full of ‘personality’.  We are on a quiet street with lots of lovely neighbours.  The kids now have scooters (even little Chilli) and spend hours cruising up and down the footpaths, to the park, shops, school… with me traipsing along behind carrying all the bags/ hats/ groceries… I am calling it ‘exercise’ rather than slavery!

It is five months since we found out our family was moving back to Australia.  Since then I have spent every waking moment, ‘in transition’, managing the practicalities as well as trying my best to guide my daughters through the emotional upheaval.  It has been tough and often very lonely. I have wondered more than once if this was the right thing to do (not that we really had a choice in the matter).

Well, I am done with all that now.  This is our new life. It is a very different life to the one we knew in Lao (Footpaths for goodness sake) but it is still interesting and privileged and full of opportunities for adventure.

It is time for me to get back to living… dreaming, growing and finding my fabulous!

I am going to start today with something completely frivolous and self indulgent… a long overdue visit to the hairdresser!

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Thanks for reading. Happy Fabulous.

Mad World by Tears for Fears

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So that’s that then!

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191 pieces of ‘stuff’

It is done. Our life as we knew it is over. Two weeks ago we flew out of Wattay International Airport for what may be the last time.

The sound of packing tape retching across cardboard punctuated at least a week of my last month in Laos. Despite my best efforts to cull, our ridiculous amount of belongings have been wrapped and sealed into a 40 foot container that, at this moment, is floating somewhere out there in the Ocean.

While our ‘stuff’ makes its way towards us, we scramble to find a domicile to house it, and our family of five. Rent or buy, it is distinctly unlikely that we will actually be able to fit most of our belongings into our new abode, I foresee another cull on the horizon!

Leaving Vientiane was actually a lot more traumatic than I expected. The town itself had long since lost my affections. I was ready for the next adventure, but leaving the people who had we had come to know and love was awful.

We left in style – a big boozy party, several small boozy dinner’s, a few special boozy lunches…are you detecting a theme! There were laughs and tears and expressions of love and friendship. Nonetheless, these were goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. It was miserable.

I have moved, uplifted, changed and started fresh more times than I can remember. Moving and change seem to have always been a part of my life, particularly since I hooked up with G seventeen years ago. Yet this transition has been, and continues to be, the hardest I have ever faced.

Much of it has to do with the girls. They are in mourning for the only life they have ever known. They are desperately missing the only friends they have ever known. As young women, relationships and social networks are EVERYTHING to them. Taking that away has made me feel very guilty.

Watching our magnificent, brave girls farewell their school friends on the the last day was horrid. I made a complete tit of myself at each of the three farewell parties and spent much of the day unable to speak for fear of wailing. They had, still have, such beautiful friends, many of whom are the children of our own dear friends. The outpouring of love was overwhelming and humbling. I am so proud of daughters.

Leaving Bau, our nanny, almost tipped me over the edge.  We love her.  Chilli LOVES her.  Bau LOVES Chilli. When I paid her and bid her a safe ride home for the last time we both wept openly.  She was my friend and my sanity.  She was Chilli’s other mother. Every single day since we left, Chilli asks about Bau at least 10 times. Yesterday she climbed onto my lap, took my head in her tiny hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “I have missed Bau for really long time. We go home now, OK?”. I wish I could, sweet Chilli. For your sake, I wish I could!

She, and I, also miss Nam and Lung and Kek and Uoi, all of whom worked for us and all of whom hold a place in our collective hearts.

I can hear you all scoffing, “Whatever Lady, I bet you miss them. I would find it hard to say goodbye to my nanny and housekeeper and ironing lady and gardener, that must really suck… Bitch!”

Yes, YES, YES, yes, doing my own laundry is not pleasant but that isn’t really the problem. I miss them because they were good people and all our families were, for a time, a big part of each other lives.

G and I had friends too. People who enriched our lives. People who we will miss terribly. But it is easier with those other adult expatriates.  We all understand. We all have Facebook and email and Skype and the chance to maintain our friendships over distance. Those friendships, forged in Vientiane will continue to grow no matter where we all end up in this world.

Yet tears are still shed and I miss having those wonderful supportive people in my daily life!

At the moment it is hard. I have the kids in tow constantly, G is coming to terms with the demands of a new job, there is lots of paperwork, lots of major decisions to make at once (schools, car, house etc) and we are all suffering from a touch of reverse culture shock (shoes in the house, I don’t think so!) 

But after all is said and done, we are here in Brisvegas with a chance to start a new chapter.  We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. I am not sure how, but my gut tells me this is all part of my journey to FABULOUS!

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Thanks for reading.

If you want to like my Facebook Page that would just be fabulous.

Never a dull moment…

We are moving back to Australia.  A reshuffle within the company has resulted in a rather sudden change of roles.  G has taken a position in the head office in Brisbane.  I am proud of him.

Brisbane is my home town.  We had always anticipated that, one day, when the time seemed right we would move back there.  I call it ‘home’… as much as anywhere.  Perhaps the move is a little sooner than I had anticipated but it is a chance to lay down roots and a chance for the girls to ‘call Australia home’ (at least for a little while… nothing needs to be forever… right?)

I am in the midst of yet another international uplift… what a fucking treat!

All our worldly goods must be inventoried – keep, sell, repair, gift, throw that shit away!

On the other side of the world, mostly using the magical power of the interweb, a new life must be created  – shelter, schools, transport, medical.  I have been stunned at the amount of paperwork required for…everything!  This chick has been in South East Asia for too long.

The news of the impending move has been hard on the girls.  Monkey is old enough to realise that we are leaving her friends, her community, the only home she has ever known.  She is sad, angry and confused.  Pigeon is trying to find the positives, she is so resilient.  Chilli is well Chilli is about to leave her precious Bau, our nanny, who has been a constant since Chilli was 8-weeks-old.  Chilli is not going to like that.  Bau is not going to like that.  I AM NOT GOING TO LIKE THAT.  There have been, and will continue to be, tears all round!

I have found a wonderful home for our beloved cats.

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Sanchez and Schlarper are 13-years-old.  They came here from Austalia with us and they love it here. We decided the stress of moving them back to Australia  (7 months, two quarantine stays and two different countries) was too much. They are getting lots of extra cuddles and some rather fancy treats as I enjoy my last month with them before saying goodbye. It is impossible to explain how difficult the decision to leave them behind has been.  They were our first children. When we adopted them, we made a commitment. This feels like a betrayal, even if I know it is for the best.

It is a little over a month until we actually leave.  A strange, emotional, exhausting and lonely time ahead.  But with change comes adventure and opportunity.  Who knows? Fabulous could be closer than I think!

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Two months since I have been here,
Two months, too much to say,
44 is coming but the fabulous seems far away!

Thanks for reading and I am sorry I have been away so long.

For now…

Three weeks ago, here in Laos, a plane crashed into the Mekong while attempting to land.  49 people were on board. None survived.

It was a story on the news.

In this small country, in this small town, in this small community, we were all connected to the tragedy.

For now, for me, sadness, support for those who need it, those I love.

Also, a renewed determination to find  fabulous, where… when… however I can.

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Thanks for reading.

Purple Corn Fritters…

We have a little garden at our big wooden house.  Actually, that is not entirely true.  We have a BIG garden at our big wooden house.  We also have a fabulous bloke called Kek who, along with his wife (who we fondly call Madame Kek) and his eldest daughter, Euyi, spend lots of time making sure the garden looks spick and span.

At the back of the garden is the veggie patch.  We built the beds not long after we arrived here in Vientiane.  Three solid years of composting absolutely everything has produced some luscious soil.

G, along with his daughters Pigeon and Chilli  (Monkey is not so keen to get her hands dirty) spend lots of time, every weekend, weeding and finding snails and worms, turning the compost and planting things to grow and eat.

My job is to turn the fresh produce into something delicious.

Last weekend, Chilli toddled up the stairs and deposited a bucket full of these at my feet.

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Purple Corn. WTF!

They looked pretty weird and manky but the individual kernels were sweet and juicy.

I was rather proud of brunch that morning… colourful, healthy and it tasted FABULOUS.

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Miss Pip’s Spelt and Purple Corn Fritters served with lao avocado, tomato, chilli salsa and natural yoghurt.

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Have a fab day!

I still call Australia Home

‘Summer’ holidays continue. Three point five weeks down and five and a half to go. Week two and three were great. Why? Because I took my two eldest girls back to Australia for 10 days.

Australian Cake Making

IT WAS FABULOUS!

The decision to go back was last minute. I had decided not to return to Australia because I couldn’t face the thought of flying, on my own, with the three girls. I, realistically, figured that a holiday with a 19-month-old and two kids in tow might not be that much of a holiday at all. So we shelved the idea.

But I miss home, I really miss home. So G suggested I leave Chilli behind and take a short-break. Our nanny agreed to pick up the extra hours, G adjusted his work schedule slightly, I pushed my ‘mother guilt’ aside and we booked the flights to Brisbane.

Monkey and Pigeon are such seasoned travellers.  They handled the long flights and the transits off a break. They were also, for the most part, wonderful companions. We had a really nice time.

From the moment we landed, I felt like I was home – the colour of the sky, the sound of thick Australian accents, the trees, the Brisbane River… the ordered and predictable traffic, the supermarket, the sidewalks, the parks and public spaces, the winter fruit, the cool weather, the cinema, the underwear and clothing that fit me… so easy, so convenient – OH GOD, IT WAS GOOD TO BE BACK!

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Kangaroo hopping fun at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)
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Silly Uncle Dave
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On the ‘fairy’, Brisbane River
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Free flying fox fun – Speers Point Park

Ultimately though, the best thing about going home, what made it so hard to leave, what makes my heart ache now as I sit in a cafe in uptown Vientiane and write, is the people I saw so briefly and have now, once again, farewelled… and the people I didn’t have time to see and have once again missed.

I have been living abroad for almost 8 years now but I still have a place I call home. My home is not a building. My home is the friends and family who I love and leave behind.

It was good to go home.

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Thanks for reading.  Have a fabulous day.

We’re all going on a Summer Holiday.

Here in Lao, as in many parts of the World, it is Summer Holidays. Coming from Australia, I find this hard to digest.  Summer, as far as I am concerned, is December/ January.  It is soaring temperatures and expeditions to the beach, Christmas, New Year!

July/August should be cold and wet, I should be accessorising with an assortment of fabulous scarves and battling chilling winds.  Instead, Laos is giving me ferocious storms, 100% humidity and hot, hot, heat!

‘Summer Holidays’ meant nothing to me until I had children… and those children started going to school… and school- decided that for 8 weeks, ‘over summer’,  I would be responsible for my offspring 24hrs-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

For fucks sake! SERIOUSLY!

So here I am, almost one week into the ‘Summer’… again!  What a strange time. What a pot-luck of highs and lows.

The best part has been waking up in the morning and not having to cajole, humour, threaten, bribe and yell to get us all out the door – preferably fed, cleaned and dressed – before 7:45am each morning.  Instead, there have been long morning cuddles and leisurely showers, albeit with a toddler and two little people sharing the bathroom with me.

Watching Monkey and Pigeon play with their little sister, chasing her around the house as she squeals with delight, dancing together, smashing the poor keys on our keyboard to create a sisterly symphony of tuneless noise, more squeals of delight… I find myself clutching my chest as it bursts with love and pride.

What’s more, for the most part, I find myself enjoying the company of my older daughters.

This week we have had our hair cut, our nails done, we have seen a contemporary dance performance.  There have been several play dates, a shopping expedition across the boarder into Thailand.  They have crafted and painted and made cookies and swum. There has been a trip to the Dentist and several trips to the clinic for a variety of ailments.  We have even had a wart removed (I won’t say who or from where!!).  We have been really busy and it has been fun.

But by this afternoon, we were all exhausted.   Chilli was doing circle work and walking into walls well before 6pm.  Pigeon, who had nothing left to give, lay on her bed in the fetal position weeping because, “My eyes are too tired and my nose won’t let me sleep!”.

But it was my eldest who was the most impressive. Around 4pm this afternoon, Monkey morphed into Demonspawn.  Two award-winning tantrums in as many hours. She bulls-eyed just about every button she chose to push.  She fell asleep, wailing even until her final moments of consciousness, I practically sculled three-quarters of a bottle of red wine and sat in the dark for over an hour before the call of nature dragged me out of my catatonic stupor.

… and this is only week one… fabulous!

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Thanks for reading… I make no promises about writing again until the “Summer” ends, but it is good to know you are here if I need you.