We're on a plane. Having just left Singapore and are headed to Sydney. From there, Christchurch. Then feet up, chill out and just be. We'll be arriving 2.5 days after first leaving Hoi An, Vietnam on an overnight train. I've learned not to write on a train. They're rickety, jumpy and unpredictable. Much like the movements of the train, my writing seems to follow suit. What comes out gets all jumbled and sometimes doesn't make much sense. Mixed messages even. So I'm staying clear of that. Lessons learned.
We're over 4 months in. I should probably do a little reflection. A little update. A little of both.
I remember when it first hit, maybe even all 3 of us at the same time, that we were doing something special and that in fact, we were extremely lucky to be where we were. It was October and we were in Otres Beach, Cambodia. It's right on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. I had been doing some research and read that bio-luminescent plankton were visible off the coast. However for them to really appear, it had to be dark and the moon couldn't be bright. I was keen to find them and so were the boys. I wrote a friend that i was hoping it would be something like from the movie, The Life of Pi, but in reality was expecting much less. The first night we wanted to see them the moon was crazy-bright, so I bailed. But the second evening the conditions were perfect. It was overcast and the moon and stars couldn't be seen. We set off down the beach around 9. After walking for about a kilometre past all the beachside restaurants, we finally found a location that seemed perfect. This was our spot. What I hadn't appreciated earlier was how dark it would actually be!? It was black and the only things that were visible were the lights from the restaurants lining the beach, way off in the distance. We carefully waded into the water. Max & I first. Sully felt he should stay on the beach, 'just in case'. Hmmm, rIght. 'Just in case' of what, I have no idea, but that's where he felt comfortable. Eventually Max and I got out to a spot that was up to his chest and my waist. We could hear Sully on the beach asking where we were. On the other side of the Gulf, most of Thailand could probably hear him too. I asked him to turn it down a notch. Then we shook and stirred up the water with our hands and the plankton appeared! Much like fireflies randomly appearing in the sky, plankton appeared in the ocean. Nothing like The Life of Pi. But it didn't matter, Max and I were excited! We managed to convince Mr. 'Just in case' to come and join us. To see for himself. He arrived and saw what we saw. It was incredible and although it didn't meet my expectations, it was like nothing I had seen before. I stopped for a moment and listened to the boys stir up their surroundings. Searching. And at the same time as the thought materialized in my head, Sully verbalized it for me (of course he did). He said, 'wow, Jay! We're really doing this!'. We're really experiencing everything we can! This is amazing!' And it was. We were in the middle of complete darkness. Up to our respective waists and chests in an ocean where we had no idea what was surrounding us. No one knew where we were. It was just the 3 of us. Oui3. And in that very moment it occurred to me how absolutely special all of what we had done and what we are still planning on accomplishing really was. Is. It wasn't a turning point or anything like that. But a realization. To remember to soak it all in. And do what you most want to. Just in case.
I keep lists. It's what gets me through and keeps me on track. The ship pointed in the right direction. So here are a few of my highlights from a list. And questions people have asked us.
1. Scariest moment?
I lost Max. I lost him for 15 minutes and they seemed like 100. My heart was in my throat. My eyes were wide. My senses exploded and I couldn't keep up with all the scenarios in my head. Nor did I want to. We were in Bangkok at a mall. Sully was at our guest house, sleeping. Recovering. Max & I had to eat, so I made the decision to leave with him and get food. After eating, we stopped at a coffee shop and I chatted with a fellow traveller about upcoming stops to Laos & Vietnam. As I was talking, Max mentioned to me that he had to go to the toilet. Assuming he would use the one in the coffee shop I nodded my head and didn't give it another thought. Max however, had other ideas. As he often does. And this has been a concern of mine since we left in August. I rarely have to worry about Sully. He's always focused on the destination...a straight line from a to z, never waivers. Max? He's a gong show. Although he always gets there, his line from a to z is never straight. A hot mess of circles and detours. The second he becomes distracted by anything, that's his new focus. He remains aware of the ultimate goal or destination, but that's no longer the priority. Whatever just popped into his head has become priority #1. And so, wherever we are or go, I need to be fully aware of where Max is or what he's doing. It's mentally exhausting. We hold hands a lot. And this time, I was distracted and let my guard down. Instead of heading for the closest toilet he headed into the mall to try and find the washrooms there. And because I was distracted it took me a few minutes to process what had happened. Once I realized he had been gone for 5 minutes, I calmly freaked. I rushed to the washrooms on the floor below. No Max. Up to the 5th floor washrooms via an escalator so I could try and spot him. No Max. I walked back to my friend, assured I had just missed him and he had returned. No Max. That's when panic set in. Back to both washrooms. Running now. He was nowhere. Had disappeared. I was already thinking the worst. Returned to the coffee shop, ever hopeful. No Max. I had no idea where he was. I approached a security guard, was frantic and tried to explain my situation. He couldn't speak english. Neither could the person who was working at the information desk. I was wasting time. Finally a stranger approached and offered to help. As I turned and pointed toward the escalators, I saw the cutest little patch of red hair appear above the floor. Followed by the rest of him and his blue crocs. Amazing. I could feel the adrenaline disappear from my body. Oh, where was he? "Daddy, I was in the elevators, pretending I worked there and was helping people get to all the different floors". Of course he was.
2. A laugh out loud moment. (man, there have been so many)
We were in Myanmar eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant. We were all was starving. The boys smoothies arrived first and they began to inhale them. Sully finished his quickly and Max managed to keep a little in his. The food arrived shortly after and again, Sully demolished his meal, while Max picked away at his (it always goes like this). At some point while Sully was eating, an ugly weird looking bug landed in Max's smoothie and he announced he didn't want to drink anymore of it. Sully was in his own world and didn't hear any of this exchange. After finishing and still being hungry, he looked around the table saw Max had some smoothie left and asked him if he could have the rest of it. Max, thinking this situation was too good to be true, happily agreed. I just watched, curious what was going to happen...while slowly getting out my camera. I managed to get a classic picture. Max's expression is priceless, as Sully is about to suck the bug up through his straw. Coughing a little and thinking it was ice he had just swallowed, he was confused why Max and I were laughing out loud.
3. Are the boys adjusting?
Not only adjusting. Flourishing. I've had many strangers approach me and tell me what wonderful, interesting and cool boys I have. I'm lucky. Their confidence and joie de vivre has never been greater. They can't get enough of this, embracing local languages, customs and clothing. They continually get their nails done b/c thats exactly what they want to do and aren't concerned at all about the confused looks on the faces of many of the locals. They're respectful, they ask questions, they get involved and they want to experience all of it.
Max is becoming much more independent and will approach any safe adult without worry to help solve his problems. As easily distracted as he is, he is very aware of his surroundings and is able to recall information that surprises me. Sully? Well this is the ultimate learning environment for him. Have you read his blogs?? I'm more proud of them than ever. They continually frustrate, amuse and amaze me. They're just the best. But I'm biased.
4. What have been your favourite parts?
I have a list of highlights that I'll share later, but can honestly say just watching everything evolve through their eyes has been an absolute treat. As parents, how often are we able to be a fly on the wall of our kid's lives? To just sit back and watch them learn, explore and interact in a non structured environment. A strange environment. It's very rare. And I realize how extremely lucky I am to have the opportunity to do it on a daily basis. It's special. I love every second of it and won't forget it. It's crazy exhausting though!?
5. What have you learned? How have you changed?
Hmmm...this is an interesting one. I know I've chilled a bit. Probably more than a bit. The random 'red-rage' (oh hi, Scott & Nicole!!) incidents are almost non-existent. Almost. It wouldn't be any fun if they disappeared entirely!?
Ok, in the interest of being open throughout this process, I'll be honest and write about something I normally wouldn't. Whoa.
Once upon a time I was in the most amazing relationship ever. It was a dream. The best kind of love. And I never wanted to get out of. Then life happened. And Jane was taken from me. From us. And it was devastating. Everyone knows that part.
And I've gone through the past 7 years not really allowing anyone in, not wanting to deal with everything it takes to make a relationship amazing. I've chickened out or been too particular. Too busy, too overwhelmed, too focused on other things, too scared. Wondering if I'll be 55 and still single. And when we started this trip a relationship was the absolute last thing on my mind. I wanted to focus on the here and now and be in the moment, exclusively with the boys. I didn't want what I felt was a burden or a distraction. However, as the trip has progressed the interesting part is, I've become fascinated by how people all over and throughout the world meet and connect. How random it all is. How they find their, 'one'. Whether they live in the same small village or on the other side of the world. I've caught myself thinking about it constantly. Not constantly, constantly...but at different moments throughout the trip. Watching couples while walking the busy rush-hour streets of Sydney wondering how they met or watching families while trekking through remote villages in Laos and Myanmar, wondering the same. Slowly I've began to peel back my protective layers, break down that invisible barrier and entertain the idea of having my own amazingness again. Of wanting to find someone who makes me feel special, gives me goosebumps and butterflies. And who I can do the same with. Who I think about randomly throughout the day. Seeing something that makes me think of them or remind me of them. Wanting to share the most ridiculous or mundane things with them. That's the good stuff. And if you've already found them, well then you're one of the lucky ones. Hold onto that. Don't let it go, because that right there is what it's all about. I'm certain that when someone I'm crazy about, becomes crazy about me, well there's no better feeling than that. That's just the b.'s knees. So I'm allowing myself to open up again. It's refreshing and I can't be more excited.
So ya, that. That's what I've learned. And remembered.