We loved our time in Vietnam, more so we loved our hosts and we spent a lot of our time in Hoi An at our homestay and treated it as a rest. It became a bit impossible for me to go out alone in the day with the girls because of the attention they’d get and in all honesty, it was starting to get to Dylan. Our hamlet was a tourist attraction and each day busloads of tourists would be dropped off to come and bask in its quaintness and to purchase a Vietnamese traditional hat. If we needed to go and get drinks or food we’d shimmy through whilst Dylan was squealed at, grabbed and had phones put in her face. And she just wasn’t enjoying it anymore, so we stopped doing it. We ordered in a lot and stayed with Hung, Thanh and Bin – we were so looked after and had the loveliest time but after two weeks we were ready to get out of Vietnam, mostly out of fear of the Vietnamese Border Police.
Whilst in Vietnam we conducted a plan, we missed Cambodia so much why didn’t we just live there? No, really. Why don’t we live there? Sam and I are both known to go after something with our everything, I think it’s one of the things we like most about each other. When we’re in, we’re in and we’re in it together and this plan was just wild enough for us to think it might work. We still wanted to travel, but we also wanted a base – somewhere we could always yo-yo back too and we had fallen hard for Siem Reap and the people who lived there. So, why not?
We returned back to Valentina’s house into the arms of Kunthea, who had made a heart out of flowers on our bed and cuddled us like we’d be away for years. Sylvia, Sue’s friend from New Zealand was now looking after the house whilst Valentina and Steve were away and had already been looking out for places for us to live, she is an ex-deputy headmistress who you wouldn’t cross but radiates joy, she is someone who has finally found true happiness and as we learnt more and more about Sylvia, that observation couldn’t be truer. She was incredible with Dylan, she played and set boundaries and Dylan mostly adhered to it which whilst we’ve been away we had really been struggling with. It’s been a lot of change and she’s a nearly three-year-old so she’s been testing the waters, but with Sylvia – she listened and in return helped her through a hangover or two!
When we started our adventure, I came packed with colouring books and stickers books and a Trunki of emergency toys in case she asked for them. But the colouring books are all coloured in, the stickers have all been stuck and she’s fixed every one of her toy cars with her plastic hammer, wrench and screwdriver. She needed more, we played hide and seek and found every good hiding space and played catch and recited nursery rhymes but she often became bored and ended up on my phone watching grown adults making cakes out of Playdoh and Paw Patrol in German. I had talked myself out of schooling/nursery for her for various reasons but we had both started to worry about all of the screen time and that it was starting to mess with her. It was evident that Dylan needed to be challenged more and we had heard really wonderful things about an international nursery in the area. At first, I beat myself up immensely – THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN, I wanted to homeschool her and make leaf prints and teach her about Frida Khalo! (Not just these things, but you get the jist of where my head was at).. I basically felt like I wasn’t enough for her. Which I know is ridiculous but sometimes the mind loves to dig a big ol’ hole full of insecurity and doubt that you can throw yourself head first into. We walked in for a trial day, after being shown around we were both sure that this was the place we wanted to attempt to send her for her to only reject and run back into our arms because she loves us so much and couldn’t bear to be away from us.
She loved it.
Like, really loved it. Like, wouldn’t have come home if she didn’t have to and would have slept on the slide loved it and it was amazing. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like the worst mother of all time – I felt like we’d understood what she needed and now she felt fulfilled. She’s started to eat Khmer food, has become better at sharing and is really good at sports! I didn’t realise how lovely it would be to watch her discover things about herself in her own space and be able to relay it back to us. I felt like I needed to be there for everything but actually, she needed to do this without me. And, she’s really happy!
Now, we have a happy toddler. We just need to find a house.