Laos-ers

Sorry for the radio silence but I’ve spent the last 8 weeks drowning in culture and Australian men. Just kidding! They were British. So I thought I’d start the tale of our travels when Big Libs joined me in Laos after a fitful week of job interviews and some alone time with the most important man in her life, her horse Manti.

We arrived in Vientiane, the capital of Laos and stayed in a hotel that felt like a set design for Black Mirror. It was alarmingly cheap and very new but we seemed to be the only people staying there. Not much else happened here except the locals marvelling at Lib’s exceptional height. Libby also managed to lose the only bikini she brought for our 8 week escapade but luckily a local builder found it in the bin.

Next we moved on to Vang Vieng, where we planned to go tubing down the river as drunk as an Irishman at Cheltenham. Little did we know that it was here that Libby’s life would change forever. The toilets standards in Laos weren’t particularly impressive (if you fell in you’d probably just hold your breath and wait for the sweet release of death) but they were very low whilst in the jungle. After consuming too much beer for 11am, Libs ventured into the trees to relieve herself. After closing the door of the jungle shack lavatory, something fell on her head but she brushed it off (literally). Only after she opened the door did she realise it was an enormous black snake, slithering into the shrubs.

I had been playing ‘naughty jenga’ at this point and had stumbled out to locate my companion and make sure she hadn’t fallen in the river. As I headed towards the toilets, I witnessed a terrified Libby running full pelt down the muddy hill screaming in hysterics about the demon she had encountered in the bathroom. The mud made the entire scenario more comical as she slipped around like a very scared bar of soap. After extracting the story from a distraught Libby, we went round the corner to pee au natural. At this exact moment a local Laotian family strolled past, looking very confused probably wondering why this enormous pale giant was crying whilst urinating.

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Libs after recovering from her snake face off with the help of multiple beers

Next stop was Luang Prabang, a UNESCO heritage city (I’m still unsure what this means but it makes me feel cultured using the term). The journey to this famous city was about as enjoyable as tonsillitis. Our day of drinking had caught up on us and at every view point we stopped along the way, the only view I had was the inside of a toilet bowl. I spent the majority of our time in Luang Prabang, hungover trying to remember a time when my stomach wasn’t doing its own version of the Macarena.  It was here we would watch the Giving of the Alms. This is where tourists wake up at 5am, pop on their best temple skirt/rug and feed the hungry monks. As you can imagine Libs and I were not thrilled about waking up before the sun but we did it. You’re welcome monks.

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Hungry monks looking for a snack

Now comes to a section of our trip that has scarred me and will stay with me for the rest of my life. We made the very questionable decision to stay in a Laotian homestay and experience local village life. After floating up the Mekong River on a long boat where we looked at the beautiful surrounding views (aka slept the entire way), we arrived at the village. It was very very very rural.

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We were told we’d each be sleeping in a family’s hut for a night. Once the sun had set, a little girl led us up the muddy hill to our beds. It was 7:30pm when they turned out the lights and we laid in the hot wood shed, trying to forget about all the insects that were probably crawling towards us. Big Libs needed to pee for approximately 75% of the night but knew if she left the hut she probably wouldn’t return. At 4am, we ran as fast as our mosquito bitten legs could carry us towards the boat. Here is a picture I snapped of us.

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I also witnessed Libs wash her hair, fully clothed, with a bottle of water in the pitch black darkness. It was a memorable sight to see. I’ve never been so glad to get back on a boat.

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Overall Laos was very beautiful, very wet and full of animals that potentially could’ve killed us. The real highlight was when Libby’s feet were compared to the feet of the villagers, where 99% of them do not own shoes.

Next stop Thailand!

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Graduation Day

I graduated from university in July last year and found the entire experience quite stressful. Walking around in those ridiculous robes, sweating off my fake tan and trying not to cry about the prospect of unemployment made this day incredibly draining. So much preparation had gone into a ceremony that lasted approximately 2 hours.

Let me tell you, this kindergarten graduation made my university one seem like a lazy Sunday brunch.

Let’s try and forget how ridiculous it is that kindergarteners are even having a graduation. The final musical number (oh yes there were multiple musical numbers) was entitled ‘the future is looking good to me’ and included hard hitting lyrics like ‘I did my best, I made it through so now I’m watching my dreams come true’. Slightly excessive as I doubt any of their dreams involve going to school everyday for the next 13 years and losing their right to naps. And contrary to the song’s message I don’t think a few students are ‘ready to go’ as they can’t put their shoes on the right feet.

Each year group had a different song to perform and the theme was ‘the farm’. So after learning reasonably complex choreography, each child was put in a full body animal costume. Here are some snaps to show how happy the children were in 33 degree heat.

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I was also given a starring role as ‘kindergarten teacher’. I prepped vigorously and used my years experience to try to understand why there was a kindergarten teacher on the farm carrying a bowl of cauliflower. After my crucial lines, I was also given the huge responsibility of staying on stage and dancing with the nursery children to an up tempo pop rendition of ‘Old McDonald’. It was my job to make sure none of them ran off the front of the stage/cried. The whole experience was interesting and another example I plan to use if I’m ever asked to discuss ‘a difficult situation that I powered through’ in an interview.

My only other duty for the day was to keep the children who weren’t performing quiet, whilst they were stuck backstage with no air conditioning. It was much more important that one of the governors of the school gave a 45 minute speech. Who cares if a few children faint? Grow up! To keep the children quiet, we had bags and bags of snacks but since all their grubby hands hadn’t been cleaned, we had to feed them like animals at the zoo (or the farm) and drop the animal crackers into their mouths. This will definitely be a tip I use with my own children as there was complete silence.

I could feel myself getting emotional as we gathered all the children on stage. I was fully prepared to cry and for everyone to think ‘why is that very sweaty white girl crying on stage?’.  As much as this blog has highlighted their many flaws, I am undeniably attached to all the little gremlins. I had always thought that kids didn’t like me, like dogs don’t like thunderstorms and my Dad doesn’t like vegetables. Although I may not have helped increase their educational value, the kids loved me. I use the word loved as they’ve probably forgotten who I am now. So the music has kicked in, I’ve lost my ability to sing and I’m welling up big time. Next to me is standing Michael. We have had a tumultuous relationship due to his inability to sit on a stool without falling off. Michael is screaming like someone has been shot because he can’t get off stage and go to see his mum. In this joyous moment everyone is clapping and singing whilst Michael is screaming like a banshee and trying to dive off the front of the stage.

After the screaming incident, I had managed to suck the tears back into my eyes until I realised now was the final goodbye. Each child was called off the stage to be reunited with their parents after the 4 hour spectacle. I know you’re not supposed to have favourites but one of my ‘preferred’ children, Eva, reached the door to leave, turned around and blew me a kiss. I cried more watching a group of 6 year olds graduate than at my own graduation.

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Tea-se Me

Afternoon tea in Hong Kong, also known as ‘high tea’, is a long running tradition. Hong Kong’s elite have spent their days sipping passion fruit tea at the Peninsula and savouring rose petal jam at the Mandarin. Any form of activity that makes it acceptable to eat non stop for 3 hours is a culinary experience I am interested in.

Some of you may be unaware that I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to planning activities, especially food related ones. The disappointment of ordering a dish at a restaurant and discovering it tastes like the inside of a homeless mans shoe can only be matched by buying a new top only to find you resemble a squashed jacket potato. So I spent most of my ‘school prep time’ googling which afternoon tea we should go to. I am now extremely knowledgeable about every single establishments’ high tea menu, information I can now file away under ‘realistically useless’ alongside number of people killed in tornadoes in 2012.

Hong Kong has been delivering the goods with some luxurious bank holiday weekends recently. Not that I don’t love my kids but I love them more the less I see them, distance definitely makes the heart grow fonder. Like the adults we are, we used this extra day off as an excuse to go out and get absolutely spangled on Saturday. We then spent Sunday firmly rolled in the foetal position, watching Britain’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer Moments and sobbing quietly into a bag of crisps.

After many hours spent not doing what my employer pays me to do, I decided on the afternoon tea at The W hotel. The restaurant is called Woobar and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly disappointed when the hostess did not say “welcome to WOOOObar”. I made this decision based entirely on the certainty that we could eat as much as we like. Some of the more expensive and refined afternoon teas seemed to only provide one plate of finger sandwiches, all of which I could have slot into my mouth simultaneously.

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Before we ravished the buffet like hungry locusts

Together we consumed enough food to feed the entire population of the Vatican City. Big Libs had 6 mini burgers. A personal favourite of mine was the cauliflower and truffle oil shooter than looked like a shot glass of pus but was, in fact, incredibly tasty. After this light spread of 6 slices of pizza, 8 mini melba toast, 4 bowls of mozzarella and a bucket of goats cheese, we realised there was a sweet section and after a quick stretch, mental pep talk and 30 second break we started up again, like soldiers returning to battle. I may have quit every team sport I’ve ever participated in but failure was not an option. Big Libs and I are very competitive eaters. We considered suggesting for the hotel to incorporate a vomitorium on trip advisor. We also evaluated if it was socially acceptable to sneak some pizza home in my clutch. It was a no from me.

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Fun Fact: I hate tea

What a Pair of Losers

The titular question that is still demanding an answer is: what can actually go wrong in Hong Kong? As our time here slowly comes to an end, I will attempt to answer, pulling from our wealth of experiences.

You know that feeling when you suddenly can’t remember the location of your phone? Before I hear the aggressive judgement of anyone born before 1975, I’m certain you can’t relate to this experience as your phone probably cost the same amount as two Meatball Marinara foot long subs. Anyway, your jeans back pocket is feeling alarmingly flat, you didn’t bring a bag out and suddenly all rational behaviour goes flying out the window as you inform everyone within a 10 metre radius “have you seen a white iPhone in a pink case with a picture of 2 girls in bikinis sucking in hard enough to potentially cause a small aneurism?”. Well this is a feeling we have come to know well since landing in Hong Kong. I know from the nature of the anecdotes we have shared with you, some of you must be thinking

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Now even though we are essentially children playing house, we are also semi responsible adults (ironically I just misspelt responsible even the internet knows I’m full of shit).

Not including our dignity and the will to live, here is a compact list of things we have managed to misplace/lose in the past 9 months.

Libby’s iPhone: Approximately five days after we landed, this loss was a big one. It resulted in a very hungover trip to the New Territories where we stood outside a 20 storey building with an A4 sign saying ‘Please give me my phone back I’ll give you $1000’. Unsurprisingly, the phone was never located.

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The £160 text message: After the fiasco above, we contacted the HK taxi company and they told us they could send out a text message to all the drivers in the area to check their cabs for Libby’s phone. What we thought would cost $160 was in fact $1600, the price Libby paid for a brand new phone a few days later. It’s still a very tough topic for Big Libs.

My HKID: I discovered one of the most important pieces of identification I own as a Hong Kong resident had gone missing as we sat on the beach at Mad Monkey waiting to board a 5 hour bus back to the airport. Typical me, I acted super calmly and emptied the entire content of my bag onto the floor like one of Santa’s elves who’d realised he’d mislabelled a present and sent a 5 year old a glow-in-the-dark dildo instead of a lightsaber. I also didn’t sleep the following night from scary visions of being locked up in the HK airport jail. At least I would’ve been tan in my mugshot.

My English Debit Card: This bad boy can be located somewhere in Koh Phangan, another last minute escapee as we waited to board the boat back to Koh Samui. The actual loss itself wasn’t too bad but you don’t know the meaning of pure anger until you’ve been on hold with HSBC for 20 minutes, knowing fully well how expensive this phone call is. I apologise to whoever answered my call, the holding music was extremely agitating.

$2,000 in cash from ATM: Cash machines in Hong Kong are a bit odd. They will give you a piece of paper, your card and then, approximately 20 minutes later, eject your cash. A bit like that housemate who needed to be nagged on the group chat before finally coughing up the cash for the communal wifi. A very flustered Libs took her card and only realised after walking 5 minutes down the road that she had forgotten to pick up her money. Her mother was not impressed.

Libby’s international debit card: This was a particularly annoying loss. Libs FairFax card (which was rinsed following the £160 text message) went missing, causing Libby to panic and cancel it. A few days later, we found it underneath an empty packet of Cheetos.

My Birkenstocks: I won’t blabber on about the shoes, if you’ve read the blog before you know the heartbreak I encountered in the Philippines. Turns out I’m a bit of a sandal slut and I thought I’d miss my old pair a lot more.

Lib’s passport: I left this little hiccup until the end as it is currently being resolved. After discovering her passport was not in the junk drawer next to her bed (where the corpses of many suitors lay to rest), we tore apart our entire apartment trying to find it. Today Lib has spent the entire day at the British Consulate trying to find a way for her to go travelling in approx 6 weeks with a passport. When asked to comment on the experience Big Libs said ‘I’d rather have my pubes tweezed out one by one by Donald Trump’.

I have no doubt we will manage to lose many more things before we land safely back on British soil in late September. Hopefully it won’t be one another.

To summarise: The Lost List

3 house key cards
2 Octopus Cards
2 Bags 
2 Debit Cards
1 FairFax card
1 English Sim Card
1 Pair of Birkenstocks

1 Hong Kong ID Card
1 Passport
1 iPhone
All of the will to live

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I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here

On May 22nd 2018, Hong Kong celebrated the birth of an inspirational visionary, whose teachings and wisdom have been passed on for many years. Some of you may be in disbelief that I’ve made such an impact on an entire nation in my short time in HK, I’m just as shocked as you are but am glad that my status as an exemplary teacher has been noticed. Can someone drop Buddha a message and tell him there is a new spiritual leader in town whose birthday is on the same day as his? Because of this public holiday, I wouldn’t have to spend the day watching Fiona try and put her entire fist in her mouth. Thanks Buddha you’re the real MVP.

So to celebrate turning the big 22, Libs and I headed to the beach to continue my quest to become ethnically ambiguous and for Libby to finally stop resembling an unopened jar of mayonnaise. There are so many beautiful beaches in Hong Kong but we decided to go to Repulse Bay as my hangover could not quite handle a 1 hour bus ride into the New Territories. The prospect of throwing up on public transport just wasn’t very appealing.

The beach was busy, as expected for a public holiday, filled with all the usual suspects aka locals in ski jackets and sun visors large enough to land a helicopter on, hiding in the shade of the palm trees like Edward Cullen and his clan of vampires.

When you originate from a country where people sit out in their back gardens topless if the weather jumps above 25 degrees, it is always a bit of a shock to see the clothing choices made by beach goers here. It was 34 degrees yesterday and we saw several people in jeans strolling up the beach like they were off to Tescos in autumnal Surrey.

We started to notice there were several tour buses coming in, decorated with the Chinese flag. Hoards of people swarmed the beach, selfie sticks floundering in the air like the legs of a cockroach stuck on its back. A group of women, dressed appropriately for a trip to Lapland, approached us and asked to have a photo and, due to Libby’s inability to say no to strangers, we obliged.

Four hours later

Starting to feel like a killer whale at Sea World (if you haven’t watched Blackfish firstly, what is wrong with you and secondly, stop reading my poor excuse of a blog and get #woke), we realised we probably should’ve pretended to be asleep. The question that crossed my mind many times was ‘Are these people really going to look back on their family holiday to Hong Kong and want to see a picture of me squinting into the sun with my mouth open?’ There were even props, Libby held up a banner! It is the most famous I have ever felt in my life. I now finally understand why J Biebs can get a bit cranky during a meet and greet. Being famous is no joke, it’s exhausting. Naturally, I have also added ‘model’ to my Instagram bio and ‘public figure’ to my LinkedIn.

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Me and my new friends

After the last group of women walked away, I laid down and soaked up the sun, thinking what a great birthday it had been. Maybe 22 would be my year!

Narrator:

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As this positive mantra resonated through my mind, I discovered that my swimming costume had not been positioned in the most flattering of lights for the entire afternoon so over 50 Chinese tourists are currently heading back to China with a picture of my foof.

 

 

 

Happy Friday

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a pretty big sleeper. Big Libs has even referred to me as a ‘sleep nazi’ which is accurate. I value sleep over pretty much everything except really nice red wine and Grey’s Anatomy. I’m basically a terrible 21 year old as I have the sleep requirements of a new born baby. For this reason, I am not a mid week drinker. This is also because when I’m hungover, my patience disappears faster than my will to say no to that 6th glass of prosecco. Last night I made an exception to the rule and went out for Ladies night in LKF, thinking I could have a couple of drinks then head home.

Narrator: It’s a shame you have the self control of a horny teenage boy with unrestricted internet access.

After waking up at 7 and realising what a terrible error I had made and literally screaming ‘oh no’ to myself as I tried to find my only clean bra, I somehow made it to work.  Another fun fact about me is that for some unknown reason, I have picked up a low key addiction to pretzels. Whenever I am hungover I routinely manage to get through a family sized bag in a matter of hours. Some people want chocolate, some want bread, I crave salted pretzels and, if I’m feeling really fancy, some sort of dip. I decided I couldn’t sit at my desk eating guacamole (I got caught doing my make up a few weeks ago and it didn’t go down well) so settled for a big bag of glorious carbohydrates.

At 8:45 everyday I have to spend 15 minutes greeting the goblins children, this job is made significantly harder when you’re struggling to put words together in one coherent sentence. I’m stood there for about 5 minutes, smiling away to prevent anyone from noticing the 4 layers of make up I have on to hide my shameful alcohol face. The lady at 7/11, who has become my only friend near work, said I looked beautiful as I usually rock up resembling Lindsay Lohan entering her second stint in rehab. So I’m just starting to think I look presentable when my head mistress (who is probably starting to wonder why she hired an incompetent drunk) walks up to me and picks a fucking pretzel off my top. Not a crumb, an entire pretzel. If you’re struggling to imagine what it looked like here is a visual

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A pretzel took up a residency on the shelf-like structure of my boobs and no one thought to tell me until at least 20 children had come through the door. Happy Friday everyone.

My Protégé

In the short months that I have known her, my tutee Viann and I have become fast friends. The line between teacher and student has faded as we sit in her bedroom eating BBQ flavoured crisps and chugging cans of Coke during my weekly visits. She occasionally plaits my hair and covers me in stickers.

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Viann’s 7th birthday was this week so as her best friend and role model I decided to buy her a present and enough snacks that she’d be high on sugar for the majority of the 2 hour session. When choosing a gift, I was overwhelmed with how scary and nightmarish the selection of dolls in the Mongkok markets were, with several balding and suffering from jaundice. I decided to be extremely extra and buy her a pack of 6 Disney Princess dolls. She doesn’t seem to have that many toys in her room and I wanted this present to cement myself in her memory, even if she forgets how to spell the word ‘cow’ on a regular basis.

Watching her open that present was one of the happiest moments of my life, her joy was incredibly infectious and I felt a bit like Daddy Warbucks in the musical Annie when she rocks up at his mansion. The error I made was giving her the present at the start of the lesson as her attention was immediately gone and she practically laughed when I suggested we complete a worksheet.

So the first thing Viann did upon receiving her present was strip all the dolls down to their naked plastic birthday suits and give them a bath. During this time, I’m trying to contain myself from eating all of the snacks at once and videoing her every move like a proud parent at Sports Day. During the stripping process, two legs popped off and an arm came awfully close to being dislocated. That’s what you get when you pay $100 for 6 dolls at the Ladies Market.

The next task was naming our new girl gang. These were some of the inventive names Viann came up with

  • Mo Mo
  • Zebra
  • Pizza
  • Billy
  • Susan
  • George

After hiding the bag of Doritos and Dairy Milk bars until she’d completed one academic assignment, we returned to the dolls 30 minutes later. Viann’s next request was we give them all haircuts. I remember mutilating many Bratz/Barbie dolls and even cut my sister a very unflattering fringe. It was the first time I understood the anguish a parent must feel and have decided this is a sign that I am ready for motherhood. I’ve also considered kidnapping Viann and raising her as my own but I am actively trying to avoid prison in China.

5 mins later: after convincing Viann that the dolls couldn’t go to the ‘birthday party’ naked (trust me Viann no one likes the naked girl at the party) I turned on my phone to start the dance party. The first song that came on opened with ‘keep on fucking me around’ and I swiftly realised that I was disillusioned about motherhood and was as prepared for it as Donald Trump was for his presidency.

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I honestly believe Viann is a superstar and will one day be Youtube famous or propel herself into stardom. I also believe our friendship would make a fantastic heartwarming comedy so if any aspiring movie makers are looking for some content, please do contact me as Viann is definitely screen ready.

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All jokes aside, Viann is one of the best kids I have ever met. She still doesn’t pronounce my name right and she sometimes forgets the alphabet but she has a heart of gold. I may have given her a low key sugar addiction and introduced her to the magic of Coca Cola but I think we can agree it’s worth it. At the end of our session last week, she told me that I’m her most favourite person in the whole wide world and I think she just might be mine.

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