We’ve been living in Saigon for very nearly half a year now.
It’s hard to imagine that the school summer holidays are coming to an end, we’re back into a new term and new class for Florence tomorrow, and fast kicking at the heels of September.
Living where we do in District 2, a heavily concentrated area for foreigners, there has been noticeably more ex-pats moving around over the past fortnight, as a new influx of residents arrives, and those overseas from their summer vacations return.
In the local supermarket yesterday we saw a couple piling high their trolley with mops, buckets, coat hangers and many other tell-tale signs that they were obviously fresh on the scene, and kitting out an empty apartment.
We had lunch afterwards in one of our favourite local restaurants and people-watched as new families arrived, ordered food, and wandered around the courtyard for the first time, inspecting the place, and offering reassuring words to their bewildered looking children.
The usual mind games that time plays on you have been amplified out here. It’s odd to cast our minds back to checking in at Gatwick airport 6 months ago, and to recall just how exhausted we were after the preparations for leaving. And then coping with the first challenge of our adventure which was initiated from the get-go, when the woman from Emirates checking in our bags announced we’d need to pay £800 for the extra 30kgs of luggage we were trying to put on the aeroplane.
From Gatwick to Thailand, and weddings on beaches, to our first surreal days taxi-ing around Saigon and making decisions about schools and accommodation with very little frame of reference, all the way up to today, and a sense now of being well systematised into the routines and everyday events which make up our weeks and months.
It’s been a good summer. Entertaining both sets of parents/grandparents, putting Flo through summer camp, hosted at her school, and then more recently watching as Lou has finally been on the mend from all she had to cope with following Martha’s arrival.
Martha has been a joy. She begun sleeping through the night last month, and has been officially classified with “top baby” status as she approaches 3 months old (next Tuesday). Feeding well, smiling constantly. She appears to have picked up my brother’s own childhood characteristic of being sick much of the time – probably because she loves her milk! – and so she gets through several outfits a day.
These days Florence is unable to stop talking. She moves from one energetic activity to the next. Still a Daddy’s girl, we may have found a way to break her out of this, in the form of Velvet, a 6 year old friend who lives in our apartment block.
Flo has always liked Velvet, but over the holidays they have spent more time together and last week when I came home from the office one evening, arms out ready for my welcome-home-Daddy hug, I was instead locked out of Flo’s bedroom as the two of them were playing “Mums and Dads”. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to “go and talk to Mummy”.
We had 6 lovely days on the beach earlier in August, and it was great to be by the sea and out of the city. Flo became obsessed with collecting shells, and drinking coconut juice, and we landed upon some great local restaurants for memorable dinners overlooking the waves. On the last night, Flo picked out 2 of the largest tiger prawns I have ever seen (and, ultimately, peeled) for her, and a rainbow coloured lobster for us.
Happy times. Of course the usual cliché of wishing you could transport people out here to share in it all will always remain, and it was difficult to watch events in London unfold earlier in the month, and be many thousands of miles away. Crazy footage of familiar streets in Clapham and shops in Brixton. Our local co-op back in Streatham was ransacked and my sister-in-law, Mel, told us how she had to take flight from Peckham Station, as violence erupted in front of her as she got off the train.
For all the stresses at times associated with making things work out here, and the often sapping climate which seems to be on a constant setting of “hot and humid”, it does feel very special to have been able to carve out a life here that allows much more time to be together as a family.
Wishing you all happy holidays, for what is left of them, and here’s to making plans for the next ones…