11 years ago, I left Singapore for Bangkok, Thailand with only 2 suitcases and a wrist guard on my hand due to a hand injury.
I still remember the day I left for the airport accompanied by my parents, my younger brother and my best friend. I travelled to Bangkok alone and cried silently while in the air; the feeling was mixed with the sadness of having to leave my family and friends behind as well as the joy and anxiousness into the unknown.
Upon reaching Bangkok’s Airport, I struggled to lift my suitcases from the conveyor belt with only 1 hand. A kind, elderly foreign man helped me out when he saw me struggling with them. Bless him. I don’t know why I did not open my mouth to ask for help. I guess I was just too determined to do it all myself without needing any assistance.
At the arrival gate of the old Don Muang International Airport, a HR staff from the office was waiting to receive my arrival to then send me to my new home close to the office in which they’d put me up temporarily. She was tasked to take care of all my needs and had even wanted to accompany me for dinner to make sure I was OK.
Such was the Thai hospitality. I was not used to it and so politely declined her invitation to dinner. I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to impose.
She was all smiles and wanted to hang around a little more when we got to the condo just to make sure I signed what I needed to sign and was settled in properly. It wasn’t until a persistent reassurance that I was fine, knew my way around and had plans with friends (I didn’t) after all the necessary paperwork did she then leave.
I was sure I did not need any nannying and I wanted to be left alone. Granted, I was not even expecting or wanting a pick-up from the airport in the first place
I wasn’t sure if my response offended her, but I thought that I detected a look of genuine relief when I told her that she was not obligated to stay any longer to chaperone me around. After all her insistence and mai pen rai megawatt smiles of wanting to stick around, her expression of relief and what she had said earlier got me confused.
I realised that was to be my first introduction to the Thai culture – things on the onset and/or smiles are not always what they seem to be.
We wanted to start anew. We needed to leave. We wanted to. It was a long time coming.
Fast forward to 18th May last month, I left Thailand after my supposedly 1-year stint to a “temporary” stay for over a decade with a husband, 2 kids, 3 cats, 7 suitcases and a severe eye infection in-tow with a cargo of yet-to-arrive shipment to our home in a couple more weeks.
So far, the Netherlands has been nothing but a breath of fresh air.
Process and bureaucracy aside, I can also appreciate the straightforwardness of the Dutch culture without having to meander and navigate the double (or triple) meanings of what are really being said and the expressions or smiles that come with it.
Most Dutch are pretty straight-forward and I work well with that. Except when you are trying to put cupboards and cabinets together. Oh no! Those are not as straight-forward as I have discovered from our recent DIY furniture expedition with IKEA-styled sets of instructions!
Where we live, we are surrounded by greens, kids playing about in front of our house with the neighbours helping each other out to keep their eyes on the kids as they sit outside in the sun sipping wine.
No concrete jungles, no heavy traffic, no air and noise pollution.
Friendly housecats roam the streets with their occasional visits to random houses, popping in to say hi. Even our cats are friendly to each other and at ease (but not to the neighbours’ cats!)
Almost everyone whom we pass by on the streets and don’t even know would call out a simple greeting depending on the time of the day or with a casual hello.
At night, everything is dead silence.
I’m not used to that! But I can get used to all that quite easily.
We spent the last week trying to get into a routine. Silver Bullet has started his new job, both kids are already in school (thank god!) and loving it while I am currently still on leave and about to go crazy doing nothing else but juggling kids, household chores and trying to understand/speak Dutch.
We may have left Thailand but I’ll still be connected to it by the sheer fact that I’ll continue to work remotely as a consultant to support our Thai office. I’ll be doing a 3-day week and I start work tomorrow.
Not a bad arrangement at all from my management considering we’ll have income coming in, but I see it as something that’s temporary. I doubt it would be sustainable in the long run, especially where finances are concerned. I’ll have to look for something more permanent here soon enough.
Where this goes with my career, I really don’t know. What I do know is that with no domestic help available, my role has expanded to include being a part-time housewife and a sitter to 2 kids and 3 cats with triple the workload. And no additional salary.
We are already running a laundromat here! Then there’s the cleaning and ironing…Man! I haven’t done all that in years. Thailand has spoilt us (me) as it’s always been so easy to hire domestic help there. Here, we can’t quite afford it. Dammit. I miss our Nanny/Domestic Helper already. Tsk tsk tsk.
But this is where life gets interesting.
Now watch me going a little mental in trying to fulfil my obligations to being a legit part-time corporate consultant on remote, part-time housewife, a full-time toddler and cat sitter plus cat litter cleaner on premise, a disciplinarian in-house, the resident chef on apprenticeship, a mommy-blogger wanna-be, a fluent Dutch speaker in training as well as everything else in between.
You’d have to agree that apart from being a wife and a mother by default, THIS gig cannot get any more exciting than that. Or can it? It shall all be revealed in due course.