Moments.

There are moments in my life that I will always remember.

My brothers and I playing in the park as children.

Walking to school with my mum, holding her hand, chatting and singing.

The day I first saw Ed.

The day I got married.

When my daughter was first passed to me wearing a hat.

and that moment, when I came home, blissfully happy after being at a friends house all day, 7 months pregnant, huge, happy and in need of sleep. That moment, alone when I saw the email, when I opened it…

and saw; visa rejected.

The strength left my body, I fell to my knees and moaned a guttural cry, the heartbreaking pain seared through me. I held my stomach, my baby and the prospect of bringing her into this world alone. That moment crippled me.

I sobbed.

My husband rushed home, picked me up off the floor and looked so incredibly sad.

Yet we were the lucky ones, we had time to reapply to the home office, even though it meant I had to wobble over the Thai/Cambodian border to extend my visa for the extra 2 weeks in Bangkok.

It resulted in costs of over £1,000 and all for a 6 month tourist visa to the UK, so my husband could be there to hold my hand and see the birth of our daughter.

Here I am exactly 2 years later, alone. Experiencing more moments.

Like the moment I found out mum has breast cancer.

The moment we decided I should move back to England, with my daughter, to be with mum and without my husband.

A moment I never expected. A decision I should not have to make, between my precious mum and my dear husband. More on that here

I am sorry darling daughter that you now see Papa on the phone, I miss him, I miss our little family together, I miss seeing you play with papa and going on adventures to chat up the neighborhood. I am trying so damn hard baby girl and using every, single ounce of my strength to hold onto love, faith, hope and a future with us all together defying the odds.

I just hope it will be ok and although I have no idea of the next moment when we will see daddy.

That moment will come.

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Pure Love

 

 

 

Confession of a mum

I’ve become one of those mums who just looks exhausted all the time.

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When people get on a flight near me they roll their eyes and I don’t blame them as I try to wrestle my 17 month old onto her seatbelt and she pushes against the seat in front and open/closes the tray table 11 billion times over an hour.

I admit I am one of those parents who destroys restaurants*, lets their kid throw stuff on the floor, play with ice cubes and straws inevitably leaving a shit storm of a mess and only because it gave a 10 minute window to eat and have a 2 way conversation, with real time replies.

I am one of those mums that finds stones and gravel in her bag for days, because it kept the child happy to sit and play with rocks so mummy could hold down an adult conversation (in a really fancy Bangkok garden restaurant)

One of those mums who looks through narrow eyes when single people complain their tired… Mummy hasn’t slept for a year and a half for longer than 3 hours and you can go home and have a  nap!

One of those mums who looks embarrassed and fatigued when the child postrates herself on the floor of the mall because she’d rather walk in the opposite direction (always the opposite direction)

A mummy who bribes daughter with biscuits in the shopping trolley so she can shop in relative peace or on the off chance daddy takes beloved baby to the motorized toys at the mall, mummy gets to walk down the supermarket aisles alone, ALONE and it feels so good. Then the realisation that this is now living the good life hits and mummy heads to the wine shelves.

The constant bath times
Meal times
Nappy changes
Boobing sessions
Singing
Reading
Negotiating

But mummy is ok, because she is madly in love. Astounded by the precious life of her daughter, how she grows, smiles, giggles, babbles and brings so much heart bursting joy to her parents life.

*Apologies to all the waitresses, I was once like you and I know it’s a pain in the butt picking up all the crap and unmixing the salt and pepper but its also a lot easier to sweep the floor with 2 hands and it means mummy can go home and not have to worry about washing up, again.

The holy grail of Thai cooking

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I did it, I cooked REAL Southern Thai food.

I was getting moderately put out by a certain person’s comments that “you have to really understand” to cook “It’s not easy” and getting demonstrations of how to stir food in a pan. Like Thai cooking was this fabled, unreachable golden crest of cooking.

I’m always up for a challenge and have recently become OBSESSED with sataw or what are ‘un’kindly referred to a stink beans. I bloody love ’em!

Sataw and the dry, spicier then chillies on the sun curry called Khua Kling. Hubby now knows if they are selling it at the local restaurant to buy two bags one for lunch and one for dinner. So thanks to the absolute legend’s on Mama Ferang’s group I found a recipe, I laminated it because that seemed sensible, I watched the demo on Youtube and last night I made it.

It was absolutely great and quite spicy.

Today I kid you not hubby was trying to keep the leftovers away from me at lunch so he could eat them!

The best part about this story as it is not a food post, I will not be taking beautiful pictures of food and showing how I made it because I have a small person who clings to my legs while cooking and most of the time I’m not fussed. Curry is cheap here. The best part is all  the ingredients (except the meat) we picked up outside our door!

We got lemongrass, Kaffir Lime leaves and Chillies just on the street while chatting to a neighbour who keeps chickens and started shoving leaves in my mouth to try.

We also picked up Basil leaves to calm the spice, a star fruit which we have no idea what to do with and a rose because it smelled good!

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The recipe recommended 3 tablespoons of curry paste and thank the curry Gods I only used 2 because this is proper made in Nakhon si Thammarat paste that would take the enamel off your teeth!

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The recipe was very thin sliced lemongrass, kaffir leaves and chilli. Fry the paste, add the meat and bits while choking on the fumes and sneezing a lot. Done. We ate with rice and sataw and some egg fried with random green leaves that hubby made. Next week I plan to make Tom Yum soup because why not go from making the simplest curry to the most complicated, 50 ingredients soup ever.

Please feel free to mention any of your favourite Thai foods and I will try and make them, because I will never admit defeat!

Link to the recipe

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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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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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Adventures in Georgetown, Penang

The only time I pray is sitting on a minivan in South East Asia. I find myself sucking in air, the way my mum does which is extremely annoying, I get passive aggressive road rage in my head and I hold on for dear life.

This is much to the amusement of other passengers who seem to think it’s ok to drive bumper to bumper with the lorry ahead carrying tree trunks. Stopping distance people! Its rainy season here too and during one downpour we had no visibility, did the driver slow down? hell no. He did, at one point have to stop because his windscreen wipers were broken. This was easily fixed by placing a plastic bottle under the hood of the van, PROPPING IT OPEN, then the wipers worked, phew…(not really)

Onboard there’s constant commotion, wailing Thai love songs, a phone ringing, or someone chatting on a phone or a phone message beeping A LOT, there’s always a pit stop at a roadside cafe where the curry looks as though it’s been there a while, alongside the nondescript meat sticks and squat toilets to practise your aim, or lack of.

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minivan selfie

Of course our little lady took it all in her stride, napping and boobing, she’s happiest strapped to me with full access.

Thank you to the angel Nicola for treating us to an Ergobaby which easily is my favourite piece of baby ‘kit’

When finally we reached Penang, after a full day of travel, I was excited to get to our hotel. (My current dreams are of hotel rooms with fluffy sheets, pillows and an entire night of undisturbed sleep) We were greeted by a VERY small room, one which had the bathroom in the room that was surrounded by a cement step which was awesome health and safety for an adventurous 10 month old. We went out for laksa and then all crashed out except for baby who always gets overtired and instead of sleeping flings herself around.

Gratefully the next day we were moved to a slightly larger room and then I understood why the Apollo Inn gets such rave reviews. The breakfast was amazing; french toast, roti with massaman curry, fruit, toast, weird coffee in bags?!

We made the most of it and over the weekend the rest of culinary delights in Georgetown:

Bagels from Mugshot cafe easily one of my favourite cafes in the WORLD! The building is stunning, art on the walls, friendly staff, great homemade yogurt and delicious coffee makes this place very special. We had a feast in Little India after walking around in the BOILING heat; well deserved dhal, tandoori chicken, garlic naan and my favourite panel palak! The last night I ate dim sum alone with just a teapot for company as the baby was restless, it was (really) good. I was reminded of how much I loved Georgetown, the cultural fusion and the buildings…ahhh the buildings just blow me away!

 

The last day we tracked down the Hin Bus Depot, a new art space in the city that smacks of a cool, urban east London hangout and I think will only get better and better. I would recommend a visit!

 

 

Finally we made it back to Thailand after a fun, unexpected trip. I was glad to see my bicycle which currently feels like the safest way to travel… very, very, mummy, slowly.

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