June journal

Fast approaching mid June, and 2011 is flashing by.

I was back from paternity leave last week, and in Bangkok for a few days. On the home front, we’re preparing for our summer visitors in the form of both sets of parents. I say ‘summer’, however it’s been consistently around 36 degrees out here since we arrived…

In many ways I’m sure it won’t feel like we have been away that long when we sit down for dinner tomorrow night with Lou’s Mum and Dad, freshly off the plane. Although the truth is that many things have happened since we boarded our own plane over 16 weeks ago now.

Lou and I attended a short parent’s meeting in the week to discuss Flo’s progress this term, and commented on just how normal and familiar the journey, the buildings and the faces of the people we know there, are to us. Our first scoping visit to the school back in early March is now distant in the memory, and the associated senses of newness and apprehension are forgotten.

Turns out Flo very possibly feels the same, as her teacher, ‘Miss Emma’, filled us in on just how content and absorbed Flo is in all that she does in the classroom.

We’ve noticed at home her increasing confidence, questions, jokes, energy and perhaps most entertainingly, her propensity to turn on her musical doll’s house and dance around the living room floor, offering up samples of new moves learnt with her friends at school.

Flo has a hot and cold relationship with Skype, and is either uninterested being in front of the camera or, conversely, and mainly through the medium of her unique take on dancing, she will perform, with intense determination and often semi naked, a series of wobbly pirouettes and lunges, and insist on taking centre stage on the webcam.

When she’s exhausted her repertoire of dance moves, she progresses on to giggly impressions of a snake or a frog, writhing or hopping respectively, around the kitchen. All of which serves to eclipse any other possible conversation we might want to have with people at the other end of the line.

Martha can only lie there in bewilderment as much as we do, on the odd occasion glancing at me as if to say “what’s up with my sister?”

Martha has had a good first 3 weeks. Where Lou has unfortunately put up with various ailments since the birth, and Flo and I have carried off the infamous “Saigon cough” between us for about a month now, Martha’s world has been a daily routine of waking up to be fed and then nuzzling back down in a state of drunken stupor.

Martha enjoying the Saigon cafe scene

She has been out and about on a few occasions, and whilst her feeding and sleeping habits were unaffected by taxi rides, beeping horns and escalators, at times she didn’t look totally thrilled to be wrapped up in an all-in-one sleep suit, under a blanket, given the humidity out here.

We’ve not been sure how best to clothe Martha but have been conscious that the Vietnamese way is for mothers and their babies to be confined to their houses for the entire first month, and the child’s head, hands and feet need to be covered at all times.

There are some other tough rules to be followed (mothers not allowed to wash their hair for the first month either, for example) and so Martha gets plenty of attention when we are out given the lack of other newborns cruising the sidewalks in their strollers.

Martha’s positive well being has been despite our worrying premonitions before she was born about what baby number 2 was going to be like.

Based on some brief research amongst friends, we formed the opinion that couples with two children seem, through the baby-toddler years at least, to have one angel, and one Beelzebub incarnate.

Am sure time will tell whether Flo and Martha conform to this or not, but so far it has been a real joy spending time with them both, and Flo is certainly very proud of being a big sister. She has picked up on things we say to Martha and we caught her the other day sat next to her sister, patting her tummy as she was crying, and saying “don’t worry Martha, Florence is here”.

Just what both girls will make of these early months and years together, out here, is difficult to predict, but we are relishing the time we now get together at home and the easy going nature of our weekends and socialising.

Preparing for our guests has, of course, involved a slightly more chaotic weekend to normal, and the inevitable rearranging of various aspects of our apartment.

In between Flo’s Saturday morning swimming lesson, a play date with one of our neighbours at a local children’s centre, feeding Martha, and me sloping off last night for some beers with a mate whose family have gone back to Europe for a few weeks, we’ve also put in some steady shopping hours.

As well as now having a suitably stocked fridge and bar, we are also the proud owners of a new mirror, an arm chair, tea, coffee and sugar ceramic jars, 2 bedside lamps, a hand-woven basket (“for things”), some new knives, and a butter dish. A more accurate description of this last item, Lou has just pointed out, is actually a small flan dish (this purchase was one of mine) and so am not sure whether its life expectancy is that promising.

As I write this Janice and Gordon are somewhere between Dubai and Bangkok, and landing here in Saigon at lunchtime tomorrow in time for us all to toast Janice’s birthday.

Another anniversary of sorts tomorrow goes back 12 years ago, when Lou and I were flying out to Greece on separate holidays, and were to meet for the first time that night, me flanked by Derek and Paul, and she by Sarah and Laura.  Who’d have ever predicted what was to happen next.