Fork in the road
One of my real fears since the day we stepped foot in Cambodia was the thought of becoming ill or an accident that would take us on a frenzied relocation home, leaving unfavourable memories for the boys they would never forget. We have been lucky. So very lucky. Whilst trying to claim for my recent back treatment in Malaysia, it transpired our travel insurance had been null and void all this time. How close did we get to the Biggest Nightmare Ever?
Only recently have both boys succumbed to illness, Big O with bronchitis and Z with a nasty virus that meant a few days off school. We were back to the doctor twice in a week (having not been in a year) and it was this that made me reflect on how incredibly fortunate that we have remained healthy throughout this time. I still fear for Dengue Fever which currently virulent amongst the parent community, I am on the lookout for every single goddamn mosquito.
Z’s biggest excitement of our time in Malaysia has been a recent 1-night class residential to Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. Less than a 2-hour drive from Penang to the mainland, this is a paradise resort for a class of 8-year olds. Ecopark, Waterpark, and an island hideaway, this was absolutely a highlight for the Year 3’s and not many gave a backward glance as they boarded the coach. Z loved Every Single Moment. A personal highlight for him the parrot show and toasting marshmallows on an open fire.
Z has returned older and wiser, a slight shift in cheekiness and eager for more independence and adventure. These boys never cease to amaze me, each day they seem to change and I understand now how really their childhood passes so fast. They have changed, just in this last 4-6 weeks they have stepped up another level. They are the most fabulous companions and I will never regret a single moment of this time to become so close to them. For now they are such good friends to each other, and to me! Long may it last.
Thank-you to the wonderful group of visitors I have hosted here in Penang. You know who you are, and your visits have truly made Penang exceptional for me. With each visitor I have discovered life here through another pair of eyes, warts and all. It allowed me to stop, absorb and marvel at our experience.
More recent visitors have been my sister Sarah on a fleeting visit from New Zealand to soak up the sun (and the rain!), and rediscover memories of a childhood in Malaysia. A full tour of Georgetown and all its tourist spots, dim sum breakfast and coffee haunts were a must. The mandatory sundowner at the Rasa Sayang Hotel in Batu Ferringhi, Long Beach Hawkers, and a walk to Monkey Beach in the Penang National Park. Of course our time was not without event, stuck at the Botanical Gardens again with ANOTHER flat battery and it was time for a new one, tyres too.
I don’t think as sisters we have actually ever had this time together without the pressures of work and our own family life. More enjoyable than anything was the time spent just hanging out over coffee and chatting over our G&Ts well into the night.
And the last of the visitors. One of the most special families I know, Toby & Co, made it up to Penang for the weekend. Clutching all their children (3 is a lot!), they descended upon the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Hotel, just a few minutes from our apartment in Miami Green Batu Ferringhi. Our weekend was perfect, sharing just a few favourite aspects of Penang with such dear friends. The weekend kept on giving, and I have to admit that our cultural experience was much more focused on bee-boon, beer, and stupendous Shangri-La buffets. We were experts in just hanging out, enjoying the family time together.
You knew it was coming and here we go. This is it. This will explain my silence. Our twisting and turning wanderings have faced another fork in the road. A big decision to make for so many reasons, but we have made it. We are going home.
As J&I agreed our decision, I knew in that very moment this was absolutely, 100%, right.
We will return to our most favourite city in the UK, to Bath, where we last lived in 2006. For now J will remain in Malaysia, continuing his role in JB until such time as an appropriate opportunity opens up for him in the UK later in the year.
Our return won’t be the culture shock of Cambodia, or indeed of Malaysia, but it is still daunting, especially alone. Every primary school in Bath appears to be full, and after weeks of enduring the administrative nightmare, we still have no school place confirmed. I know, I know, what will be will be. Believe in fate, right?
We leave next week. My last days are upon us here in Penang, and I acknowledge my favourite friends and haunts, one last coffee, one last meal, one last visit.
As never before, this time we turn with confidence, excitement, apprehension.
This is it.
Home We Go.