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.

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I do love a Party!

It's never too early for sparkle!
It’s never too early for sparkle!

For all those visiting as part of the Maison Bentley Style blog warming party… WELCOME.

I am guessing that you haven’t been here before, why should you have? If you want to know a little bit more about me and this particular patch of cyberspace check out this.

As it happens, I am typing this from Yangon, Myanmar. My three little princesses and I, for reasons I obviously didn’t think through, are visiting with my partner, G, who was here this week on business.

Place… fabulous! Travelling with smalls…well… check this out! 

It is my absolute pleasure to be part of the PARTY. Kate and I discovered each other days after I started 44andafourth and I have been her cyber-friendly ever since… any friend of Kates as they say! This is how awesome I think she is.

Living as an expat in South East Asia has its ups and downs but this is my recollection of one of my favourite ups.. and a post I am very proud of.

I hope you get a chance to wander around a bit. Though I might be late (I am travelling on Sunday) I look forward to joining you all.

Happy blog warming!

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.

A little bit sad

I am sad, melancholic if you will.  In the not too distant future, several wonderful families will be finishing their time in Vientiane and leaving for new adventures. Some are returning to their homelands, some heading off on the next expatriate adventure.  They are all a little excited.  But I am sad because I will miss them. Their departure has made me reflective.

The thing I always miss most about home is my friends.  Even as I type that it seems ridiculous,  how can I miss my friends from home.  I hardly know where home is.  It has been so long since I have lived in Australia that I am lucky to see the people I love more than once a year, often for a only for a few hours.  There are some people I love and care for who I haven’t actually hugged for almost a decade.  Facebook keeps me in touch with some people, but not everyone is hooked in like I am (social media is a necessary evil for most expats).  Nonetheless, these relationships, many forged at school and at university, mean a great deal to me.  Perhaps because we knew each other when we were all young and idealistic, filled with excitement about the possibilities that life might bring.  Perhaps because we shared so many experiences – good, bad and ugly!  Perhaps because I love them.

Eighteen years ago, I left my home town and since then I have moved to a new city, often a new country, every three or four years.  One of the joys of my nomadic lifestyle is the number of wonderful people I have met, many who I now count amongst my dear friends.  But it is always hard to leave.  Even harder farewelling the people who move on before you are ready to say goodbye.

When we lived in Bangkok, G and I used to hang out with another Australian couple quite regularly.  We shared a love of UFC and Lebanese food!  They had children who were a few years older than ours. As a first time mum I valued their advice, which was usually, “stop stressing out”.

They also once told us:

Never regret sharing time with the people you meet in your travels, some will become firm and lasting friends.  Other relationships will burn bright and fade when time and distance take their toll.  Do not despair or feel guilty, that is just how it works. Your lives will be richer because of these friendships.

We had some great nights together.  I haven’t seen or heard from them in years.

So tonight I am sad.

I really like the friends I have made here in Vientiane.  They have made this place seem like home.  I simply don’t want them to leave.  I still want to get to know them better. I am tired of making new friends.  I like the ones I have and I just want them to stay here.

Tomorrow, I will be grateful for the having met such wonderful, fun, joyful people;

Tomorrow, I will laugh out loud as I remember the playdates, birthday parties and occasional boozy nights;

Tomorrow, I will remind myself that I still have lots of fabulous, new friends here;

Tomorrow, I will be excited because I am about to go back home and see some of  my fabulous, old friends;

Tonight, I am going to be a little bit sad.

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Thanks for reading.  Stay Fabulous!

Yay for Gay

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equality for all

I miss man-lovin’ man friends.

How am I supposed to be fabulous without all the wonderful gay men in my life within hugging distance?

There have been a significant number of significant gay men in my life, and quite a few gorgeous lady-loving ladies too. Many of these fabulous folk have become ‘lifers’, friendships forged through strange and varied circumstances that have lasted and flourished over time. People who I count as dear, dear friends even if we haven’t seen each other for 10, or even 15, years. People who make me laugh so hard I snort through my nose.

Perhaps my mis-spent youth, studying ‘Arts’, hanging around theatres, working in hospitality could account for the prolific number of gorgeous, man-hunks, I know. It could just be that I am a filthy-mouthed fag-hag. Whatever the reason – lately, I have been missing them.

Expat’s leave their friends behind. We go months, even years without seeing our favourite people. Expats with young children spend their infrequent trips home juggling jet-lag and family obligations and rarely get to spend quality time with the people they would most like to hang with. So I have not seen some of my favourite gay boys for years. My life here in Laos, though filled with wonderful relationships, is lacking in BGF’s (By which I mean “Best Gay Friends” ). I miss them.

When I grew up it still wasn’t acceptable to be gay. I thought the word ‘homosexual’ was a dirty word until (this is awful to admit) I went to University and met one. The gay men and women I know, for the most part had to fight to be accepted as who they are. Their stories are in turns, heartbreaking, brave, devastating, rewarding and passionate. I am proud that my daughters don’t even yet have the word ‘gay’ in their lexicon yet. They do understand romance (thank you disney movies!!) and they understand LOVE. They know that mummy loves daddy. They know that Uncle R loves Uncle M. They know that Auntie L loves Auntie J. They think it is ‘totally gross’ when people kiss no matter what the gender or orientation of that couple.

I met G through a gay friend. In fact, I met G because a my tall handsome gay friend and my short buxom lady friend both thought he was a bit of alright but were not sure which team he batted for. I gallantly stepped up and 24 hours later was able to confirm both his preference… and his prowess!!!

The three little princesses have the most impressive wardrobes I have ever seen, thanks to the impeccable taste and generosity of their two gay Uncles (French and British couture no less, totally fabulous!). Every little girl should have a big gay uncle, preferably two.

My gay boyfriends are the only men I have ever trusted to tell me what to wear. Granted, over the years, I may have indulged in a few more feathers and sequins than is normally considered safe but I have always known when my bum looked big or my boobs looked brilliant.

Gay men taught me how to cook, how to party until dawn, how to make a cushion into a statement, how to be fiercely loyal and outrageously fierce.

I owe more to some of my gay friends than they will ever know. They have made me laugh when I was drowning in unnecessary tears and made me cry when I was hiding behind empty laughter.

Thank you boys for teaching me that I CAN BE FABULOUS!

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… and before I sign off, a moment to acknowledge the current debate in the US Supreme Court. I defer to the wise and wonderful Whoopi Goldberg:

Really, darling, it’s a no-brainer. You know, I understand not everybody is for gay marriage. But if you’re not for gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person.

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Thanks for reading. Have a fabulous day.

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