In Cambodia I had the time, and allowed the time, to pause, reflect and share our Sunflower Journey experiences as they were to unfold.
I am now even more acutely aware of how quickly the routines of work and school see your days and weeks accelerate without barely a moment to stop and appreciate the moment, despite where you are in the world. This was the very reason we chose to stop. To put ourselves into such a different scenario of our lives that we would have to take note, to think and digest its impact. Nearly 3 weeks have passed since I scribbled my last post and I hadn’t noticed I had broken my weekly routine. Living alone with the boys and a full-time freelance project has had me working each night until the early hours and this combination of work, school, and the life in-between, has seen the days pass in a haze. I haven’t paused to take stock of what I have done, seen or experienced. I have begun to accept this as daily life, not as in the eyes of a traveller experiencing a new, and at times challenging, culture.
Visitors allow me to be and observe like a tourist again, to look with fresh eyes at the island of Penang. A vibrant blend of culture, religion and nationalities that is enough to stimulate the hardiest of travellers. It is also busy, chaotic and to be honest a little bit crazy. I blogged about our driving experiences in Cambodia, the speed of the driving and the quality of the roads were terrifying. Same, same but different here in Penang – there is a volume of traffic on the road that creates more chaos, and an unwritten rule that there is no rules – drive at whatever speed, however you like, whenever you like. Park in the road, u-turn in the road, chat on your mobile and drive your motorbike, pile your family on your motorbike, and on and on it goes. I have witnessed many bike accidents either as they happen or shortly after, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Each time it leaves you more unnerved than the last, like it feels closer and closer to your own safety.
Another term at school is now complete, action-packed and full of exciting learning opportunities for the boys. A 2-night trip to Langkawi for Oscar, and several day trips around Penang, to the beach for Literacy, Botanical Gardens for Eco-Club, and a project trip to the Batik Factory and the Tropical Spice Gardens. Sports Day, Swimming Galas, shows and homework projects from hell that has left mother more exhausted than her children.
Living apart from J has its moments, but we make the best of it and of course the weekends feel all the more precious. This in itself has been good, to all appreciate each other and make our moments together fun and special, to consciously not rush and relax in a way that is not possible for us all to do together of a weekday. What better way to toast a weekend than British High Tea (scones with cream and jam, chicken pie, cake, salmon and cucumber sandwiches) at the old colonial Suffolk House to the now infamous Annie-obsession with cocktails, and this was a particularly sparklingly sundowner margarita at the Rasa Sayang in Batu Ferringhi. We also paid a visit to the Made In Penang Interactive Museum in Georgetown, a gallery of 3D interactive art that was actually thoroughly amusing!
The boys miss Daddy but have settled into a routine, chatting and messaging Daddy throughout the week. We have closely followed the adventures of Rabbit who was asked by Big O to accompany Daddy for a week in Johor, creating much amusement for the boys as the photos came in of the Travels of Rabbit – on the plane, in the shower, getting dressed for work, sleeping and looking longingly at the photos of his boys (yes Daddy is a little bit crazy).
It is not all that easy living in Malaysia – of course there are the complexities of a foreign culture you will never fully understand, with insane bureaucracy, and an incessant heat that can be extremely debilitating. There is the complexity of multiple languages, heinous traffic and a need to shop in a 101 places for your weekly needs. I try not to bother the boys with much of this, to keep their lives simple and focused, and it was one such trip to a mall before pick-up that didn’t quite go as planned.
My perfectly timed exit of the car park was all going well until I realised I had misplaced the exit ticket between paying for it and getting to the car. I quickly re-traced my steps back to the machine, and back to the car, with my heart-rate slowly notching up with each passing minute minus to pick-up time, but alas no ticket to be found. With no way of contacting anyone with any sense of authority, I made my way to the exit barriers and alerted the attendant at the other end of the intercom as to my predicament. 10 minutes later I was still at the exit barrier awaiting the first of what was to be 3 different parking attendants to observe and consider my fate. There was no way they were going to set me free without paying some hefty fine that seemed to get more expensive by the minute. I was now late for the boys who had been led into the school office to await their wayward mother. It is quite the worst feeling ever to be late for your children, and even more so with simply no back-up whatsoever. No-one to call, no support network to step in when the shit hits the fan. I think it was this desperately claustrophobic feeling that started the tears. By the time they were in full flow, the Malaysian security guards didn’t want much more to do with a hysterical British woman. Finally they fulfilled their self-importance by taking a photo of my driving licence and number plate, and pressed the magic button to release the barrier. Hell, that was a day.
On to good times, and it has to be that of my youngest Z’s 8th Birthday, and funny that exactly 7 years ago we were celebrating his 1st Birthday at the Golden Sands Hotel here in Batu Ferringhi (and I found the photo!). The build up to this birthday was phenomenal with a birthday list growing by the day, and constant chatter as to how best to spend his birthday “week”.
We struck a deal on cakes for school / a small party / larger present combo, which was spent with 4 selected best friends and his brother for an afternoon at the mall. To Z it was perfect. I picked up all the boys after half day school and trucked the noisy rabble to the mall for trays of McDonalds Happy Meals, followed by Laser Tag and homemade (truly) chocolate brownie cake. I then issued each boy with an envelope and a few ringgitts to spend in the toy store before depositing them back with their parents a few notches higher on the sugar scale. Z claimed this to be quite simply the Best-Party-Ever. For his actual birthday, Daddy returned for the day, and delivered special requests of American Corn Beef Hash breakfast, chocolate cake and pizza dinner. This combined with a couple of mega lego sets and another remote control car meant the birthday day escalated to The Best Day of My Life, according to Z. Tick!
It is now Easter, and I type in the vacuum of peace I have created for myself aboard an Air Asia flight to Lombok. We have 10 days across Lombok and Bali, plenty of fodder for the Sunflower Journey minds and I look forward to sharing our experiences over the forthcoming days.
Happy Easter All xx