I am a teacher and a mother… 

 

Mama, I see your baby 5 days a week.

In my class they are barely 4 years old and I see on your face that you can’t quite believe they’ve grown up so fast as you watch them at the gates with their backpacks on.

 

Don’t feel bad when your baby cries and clings to your legs, it’s ok. That shows your child adores and is securely attached to you, that is not a bad thing. I promise to never make you child feel guilty or weak because they are crying but try to cuddle them, if they want or just smile at them so they know I care.

To the mothers I see outside the classroom trying to get a glimpse of your baby girl or boy, I hope you can see them, I hope you can see how they try everyday to be brave and strong in what must seem like a very difficult, buzzing and noisy place without any of their familiar comforts.

To the mothers who worry, I know, I understand and empathise that your child is your external heart and that you love them in a way that is impossible to articulate. I will always primarily keep them safe and happy before I worry if they know their A,B,C.

To those Thai mothers, I am from the UK and there it is seen as ok to express of how you feel, you could even cry, I wouldn’t mind. I would probably join in as I miss my baby at work too and know that one day I will face the same heartbreak leaving her at school.

I will never tell your child to stop crying, be strong, get over it, even if you do. I will always try to encourage them to be gentle with each other and with themselves. I promise to ask if they need a cuddle or some help and respect their space and personal boundaries.

I am a mother and a teacher, I believe these are the two hardest and most valuable jobs that exist. I am lucky to experience the feeling of being brought to my knees with exhaustion, fear and frustration but with that comes such incredible joy, uplifting beauty and sheer happiness every single moment of every single day.

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Mother in law

What a title.

For me it’s misleading as I don’t actually have one, sadly she passed before I met her and I often hope she sees us somehow and how incredible her son is.

In her place we have a ‘big auntie’ and she has a special name in Thai and I have no idea who she really is or how she’s related to my husband as here in Thailand everyone seems to have a hundred cousins and rather a lot of aunties. Now myself I actually have A LOT of real aunties, these are actual siblings from my mother as my little Irish grandmother had 14 children, yes 14. How in God’s name that woman managed that? In a titchy, tiny stone house she must’ve been pregnant or nursing CONSTANTLY. Maybe that’s where I get my fierce determination from.

I have tried to count how many aunties, uncles and cousins I have and it gets silly, I’m sure walking around Galway in Ireland I probably would walk past a few and never know.

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Picture taken at recent family monk ceremony. Loved the monk coloured umbrella!

Back to Thailand, it would also seem that everyone is a cousin, aunt, uncle and then sometimes a brother or sister and that’s really confusing. So I pay respect to this aunt as if it was his mum. She runs a temple gift shop, you know the ones with tonnes of yellow cellophane and gift baskets for the monks. This year when we had the blessing of our daughter at Wat Buddhapadipa in London, my mum couldn’t get over the gift baskets with washing up liquid and toothpaste in them and in her usual say whatever comes into her head moment said “oooooh I’d quite like one of those” really loudly of course!

 

 

 

Apparently business in the temple gift basket shop is slow, it seems to have at some point been a wedding dress shop too as the second floor is full of huge, frilly white meringue dresses. We visit the village and sit on the steps of the shop with her shooting the breeze, watching the motorbikes and cars whizz by as I try not to look at the pigs head on the butchers table next door. She fusses over my little one calling her beautiful person and then the moment I dread when visiting family here.

The outstretched arms and an expectation that my little lady will gladly accept to be held, pinched and whisked away from me. Every time! It drives me nuts, I am trying to work out if they want me to rest or they just want a cuddle but it always feel forceful. I have the opinion that children can be like fussy cats, you need to sit and be nice, let them approach you not just stick your face in theirs and bother them, then grab them. I’m sure they must think I’m over protective, really not sure, to be honest at this point I’m sure they have many thoughts on my parenting style. As I let her eat large chucks of cucumber and eat with her hands (shocking) But I can’t deal with her crying and not helping, I will always comfort her and not just stare in her face and say no crying, there’s a reason why she is crying you crazy third aunt removed.

Then comes the advice and I know this is a shared experience in every country to every single mother that has ever been, the unwanted advice. Recently coming from the big aunt, to flick, yes flick my daughters tongue as she sometimes sticks it out, usually when concentrating (just as my mum does) When we returned to the car I asked my husband what he thought and then ignored him mid sentence as I told him if you flick her tongue, I will start flicking really sensitive parts of you. That was met with a chuckle. Luckily he doesn’t listen to all the advice we get.

I find visits to the husband’s family hard as I’m sure many mums do. I can’t understand a lot of what is said, but sadly I do understand when they comment about how fat I am. My daughter always seems to cry and I am adamant that I want her to have a choice about which family members she cuddles, I hated being told as a child to kiss uncle so and so good bye when he was creepy, he probably wasn’t creepy but children are super sensitive. There is this tricky cultural line too, I want to respect, but my baby’s welfare is my priority so for now I am holding on to her tight and I tell her it’s ok if she’s doesn’t want to go to those outstretched arms that reach out so damn frequently here!

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Longing for some drizzle

I feel the most homesick in the aisles of the supermarket. I have no idea why, it creeps up on me. Yesterday it was because I couldn’t find stock to make gravy, other trips to the Tesco (yes there is Tesco here and weirdly Boots) it’s the packaging that has set me off, a Tesco packet, not kidding, makes me long for home.

We walk around our neighbourhood at dusk as it’s the only time of day that the sun doesn’t feel like it’s burning holes in your eyes. It’s a circular route, we chat to the neighbours and they play peekaboo with little one, we say hi to the chickens and fighting cockerels, hi to the local kids and birds in cages. I say ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ the crazy ferang mum and my husband points to every bush and tree, telling me “you can eat that, you can eat that” apparently our neighbourhood is basically a big salad!

I love it, truly, I have never in my life growing up in London experienced such friendly neighbours. Since we’ve lived here we have received a tonne of papaya, fresh fish and baby food already cooked mushed and frozen!! Everyone knows my daughter’s name and she babbles and smiles at every opportunity.

I get smiled at on my cycle to work by total strangers, my herding job is much more enjoyable now I’ve found ways to get quiet – Wheels on the Bus works wonders – I love the sounds at night here, although as I type I can hear strange sounds from our laundry basket and I wonder what creature we’ve brought upstairs. I love the pouring, heaven has opened rain you get here, so loud against the tin car roof. The food is incredible,  full on southern style spicy and so damn cheap, we get a whole, deliciously cooked and huge fish for £3. Most of all and what has been the biggest influence in my life and influential choice to be here is the sabai sabai* mentality that you love/hate depending on the situation, yeah I can chill when the bus is an hour late but no I can’t chill when it finally arrives and I have to sit in the middle between two seats on a plank of wood (true story)

But, even in my silly joy living here and the fact that I got a foot massage today for £4 and a haircut for 2. I yearn for England. I yearn for cups of tea after a walk around Holland park and a playground that doesn’t look like the playground at the end of the world in Terminator 2! I long for chilly days wearing leggings, boots and a jacket while walking in the grey London drizzle. I would love to be able to wash the dishes without sweating and stand in my kitchen without being swarmed by mosquitoes. Weekends feel much harder when all I want is to wonder down Portobello road, visit my fav cafe and second hand shops with my best mate and baby of course. I miss my mum too, she’s a firecracker and a good friend. But what I don’t miss is Woolwich town centre or moody people on the tube, everyone being so guarded and paranoid, being rushed at supermarket checkout which making me freak out and drop stuff, the grey, expensive food and crap Thai curries.

To many, this post will seem ungrateful for the beautiful life I have here of my choosing but if you’ve lived abroad you know, yes it’s sunny here but I’m not sitting by the pool drinking a pina coladas, I’m running around after 3 years olds with sweat running down my back, until today I had no idea how long my hair is as I NEVER have it out and two words; boob sweat.

It’s a catch 22 situation

catch-22
noun
 
  1. a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

 

My reality is I will never feel truly at home now, not in the UK or Thailand. My heart exists in both of these places and while I keep finding £1 coins in the bottom of my bag I’ll continue missing the UK, until I’m there then I’ll miss proper papaya salads and home here.

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Holland park

 

 

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*sabai means easy and if you reading this Adrian, you are more than welcome to put $5 in my account as you said you would, right?!

Stereotypes

It was a lovely Sunday morning visit the pool when I was ambushed by an Aussie man and his first words to me… “haha that’s what happens in Thailand” I asked, “excuse me, what happens in Thailand?”

“You get knocked up and have a baby!”

O.K deep breath Suzi.

He wouldn’t let it go and being we were both white, felt the need to talk to me. Referred to my husband as ‘that man’ and said “well yeah I suppose a baby is at least an 18  month commitment” Let me add he was an older man, with two children in Thailand he sees for 3 months a year as well as his 4 children in Oz, not that I’m stereotyping.

To say he made me angry was an understatement and led me to think, not for the first time about what people think. The stereotypes we are branded with and assumptions made just by looking in on our little Thai/English mixed family.

Thai men are lazy
Thai men are all cheaters
Thai men don’t care about their children
Thai men will take your money
Thai men smoke pot and drink too much
Thai men don’t like to work

I married my husband for love, purely, and simply because spending time with him felt easy  (I also think he’s really handsome) We got married on Koh Lanta and had a small gathering of friends, a pot luck and a view of Kantiang Bay. I am excited to grow old and grey together (although we’re already doing well with the grey)

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I did try with English and Irish men … who never wanted to commit! I was fed up with men when I hit 30 and took off to travel, then I fell in love, never for a moment thinking 5 years down the line we’d be living in a 3 bed in a Thai city, with a gorgeous little girl.

My mum, a good Irish woman with 5 children always asks on a scale 1-10 how are you. I always say 8 and those last 2 are because I haven’t slept a full night in 10 months. I am happy.

My husband looks after our daughter with so much love. He perseveres with cotton nappies, somehow always managing to make them clean again, I would’ve given up a long time ago! He feeds us, although I know the importance of good nutrition I could easily live on soup, homous, rocket and apples. He makes coffee and porridge and remembers every morning to unlock the gate and my bike knowing in my rush I’d get frustrated and start dropping stuff. At 7pm he prepares hot water for baby bath time as its got a few degrees cooler here (just a few now) he carries bags, babies and without fail tells me I’m beautiful at 630am after a night of broken sleep, teasing me that I have another man. Not sure when exactly would I have time for that?

That saying about love not seeing colour it’s true,  I forget we’re foreigners to each other.

I asked the women on the Mamaferang Facebook page have they faced cultural stereotypes and got some hilarious responses. Husbands who people assume are tour guides and there are those who are seen as the drivers, touts and playboys!

The most frequent judgement I hear is that he’ll take all my money. What money?! I currently work a teaching job and when he sells a leather bag he can earn what I make in 2 weeks!

Not forgetting the day I was told to check his I.D card as he was apparently lying about his age,  I was told I was snatching the cradle (he’s 4 years older) Where is the world would that be ok to question, would they do it in their home countries? I somehow doubt it.

Essentially men and woman are different the world over and in the melting pot of life there are good, bad and mediocre. We chose our partners for so many reasons, those reasons are personal and sometimes just feelings we have that we are unable to articulate. Just because I have chosen a man from another country does not mean our relationship can be scrutinised, but sadly it is and will continue to be.

I try to hold on to that saying “what other people think is none of your business!”

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