What an awesome year this year was. In honour of a great year this blog post recalls some of my favourite moments of 2010
We welcomed in the New Year with elated cries of Chúc Mung Nam Moi on Serendipity beach, Sihanoukville. So the greeting was in Vietnamese and we were in Cambodia but never mind. We didn’t know the Khmer salutation for the New Year and as we were Vietnamese residents it seemed just as appropriate.
This month the Nguyen Huu Canh hostel was busy with the arrival of 3 of Nicklas’ mates—one of whom arrived with Dengue fever—giving Nicklas some people to hang out on the rooftop terrace with whilst I slaved away at work every day. Humph!!
Celebrating my birthday at Sheridans gave me an excuse to get a cute little pink, brown and orange flower power dress and then insist that everybody dress in flowers. Rachael and myself brought in a keg of Tiger beer for the bargain price of 600,000vnd each (about £17 at the time) and the drink was free flowing all evening—thanks to Rachael for her generosity! The presence of a birthday cake topped with a dubious looking cream goat (I was born in the year of the goat) caused great hilarity for most of the evening. The night continued to some of the usual haunts: La Habana, Apocalypse Now and Go2 where many people stayed until the sun came up.
Later in February Nicklas and I joined the Dengue Boys in Nha Trang for the TET celebrations where we got to say lots more Chúc Mung Nam Moi’s and tried to pacify the Swedes from committing outright murder of the hostel owners for robbing them blind almost every day of their stay.
March had somewhat of a shock in store when the Vietnamese government refused to extend Nicklas’ visa again and so he was told that he had to leave at the end of the month. As the fees (and by that I mean bribes) had been getting heavier each time he renewed it, this was perhaps not such a bad thing but it left us facing 3 months apart. So we took a last break to Mui Ne and a week later Nicklas left, prompting the Facebook status “Elaine Thatcher is sad to announce that the Nguyen Huu Canh hostel is now officially closed for business as the original backpacker has landed back on Swedish soil. Many thanks to all those who stayed and visited.”
Recent events prompted a last minute decision to fly home for Easter – surprising my parents by just turning up at their house one rainy afternoon – and then a quick jaunt across to Sweden to check up on the original backpacker. Despite the snow I was also able to call into a school in Stockholm to interview for an English position.
The night before I was due to fly back to Vietnam my Facebook status boldly declared that I would do anything in order to not have to get on the plane the next day inciting Iceland’s Mt. Eyjafjallajökull to spew dangerous volcanic ash into European airspace closing all airports and leaving me stranded in Sweden with Nicklas. Wow! Who knew I had such power?
May heralded the rapid approach of my departure from Vietnam. Whilst now eager to leave for new adventures and a reunion with Nicklas, I was aware of things that I still wished to do and friends for whom I needed to start preparing goodbyes. So I wore a t-shirt with a communist slogan, ate Pho, donned a conical hat and climbed into a cyclo for ‘Tourist Day’ with Aletta.
I turned into a regular groupie for BIS band ‘One for the Road’ even helping lead singer Emma choose her costumes. I flew to Singapore for a few slings with Tracy and Rachael and I proudly watched Year 13 sing ‘Lean on Me’ Glee-style at their Park Hyatt graduation (a 1-hour morning ceremony that I did not return home from for a further 18 hours thanks to Emma, Rachael, Anna and a LOT of karaoke!).
Here it was at last, my final month after a 3 year stint in Vietnam and man did we make the most of it. Rocking out at Phu-Fest, endless leaving parties mainly involving posh hotels and cocktails, a trip to Saigon Ink for a longed for tattoo, followed by a LOT of Lady Gaga at Vascos, selling all of my furniture, the BIS Hawaiian evening followed by another round of karaoke and a frantic dash to the airport after waking up an hour before my flight to Hong Kong! Hong Kong – what a place, it might have rained the whole time but that did not stop us dancing in the street until the sun came up!
Suddenly I was sitting on a Qatar flight back to London with a mere 40 kilos of my life in the hold. Where had the 3 years gone? How is it possible to have done so much in such a short time? What new adventures were in store? It’s pretty weird sitting on a plane with no final destination in mind and no job. Frightening but liberating. At least I would have July and August for quiet contemplation and planning…
My wonderful time at home was suddenly interrupted by news that I had been offered a job in Sweden, the hope of which I had long since given up on. I had even started to make plans. What to do? The decision had to be made quickly so after a LONG phone call to Nicklas and a rushed goodbye to my family I was sitting on a one-way Ryanair flight to Sweden only two days later. Just a mere two weeks after my arrival back to the UK I was on the move once again to start yet another new life – this time in Sweden. I had just enough time to catch my breath and befriend Västerås pal Jordan before August, and my new job approached.
I began my job with the longest INSET ever and watched my new colleagues tentatively making their first steps in a new country with a vague sadness for being on the periphery but with relief at having a more settled life. Part of me longed to be involved in all the initial fun that occurs when in a new place, and part of me just wanted time out to reflect on the past three years. Burning the candle at both ends for such a long time had left me somewhat frazzled and in need of some time out. In the rush to relocate to Sweden and the frenzy of friends and family I had not had time to make my peace with leaving Vietnam – a period of my life which had freed me from my financial restrictions, enabled my lifetime dream of travelling and introduced me to Nicklas.
James and Bettie’s wedding allowed me to start making inroads into Nicklas’ life in Sweden as I have never been around to attend the important events. My blog was also born!
September was the start of a quieter period for me. This was much needed after such a crazy few months, a crazy few years really! I began to do the things that I had missed out on in Vietnam, attending a performance of Othello at the palace in Stockholm for one thing!
The highlight was watching Europe live at Gröna Lund with the most amazing performance of ‘The Final Countdown’ almost sending me into a hysterical convulsion and no doubt prompting my new colleagues to think that there is something wrong with me.
The month started off with a bang as 20 of us left Stockholm for a ferry trip to Helsinki for Nick and Ryan’s joint birthday celebration. The weekend had it all – fun, laughter, dancing, scandal, culture, cake. The sun shone brightly over Helsinki, what better way to bring in the erstwhile dull month of October?
This month also saw the first snowfall much to the delight of the Brits and the dismay of the Swedes.
A much needed week off allowed me the opportunity to head off to the Baltics on a break to see Riga and Tallinn, both truly beautiful cities and definitely worth a visit. An unexpected treat was in store when we procured some last minute tickets for an a-ha concert, another of my childhood heroes!
Nicklas’ birthday gave us a good excuse to invite friends over for a birthday/housewarming party and I was pleased to see my Stockholm buddies in Västerås for a day and show them a bit of my sleepy life away from Stockholm.
Rhoda came to visit and we headed to Stockholm for a day in the snowy Christmas markets and photographing Scandinavian animals in the dying winter sunlight of Skansen. The snow continued to fall and the temperatures to plummet giving me my first taster of -20. Record snowfall in the UK closed airports causing thousands of passengers to be stranded when flights got cancelled. Fortunately I was not one of them this time as my flight from Västerås to Stansted went ahead with no problems but the ride back to Wales took hours as motorways were gridlocked in the icy conditions.
After a lovely Christmas with my family—my first with my nephew Nathaniel who is now 2 years old so very excited about Christmas—and a few weeks of being pampered and stuffed with delicious home-cooked food, I headed back to Sweden just in time for New Year. Nicklas, Andreas and I went to Eskilstuna to see the New Year in at Andreas and Nina’s gorgeous house with a number of their friends. This time the majority of the conversations were conducted in English thanks to a couple of Finnish friends who had flown in from Helsinki for the occasion. The champagne was kept cold in a bucket of snow brought in from outside and flowed freely until midnight when we went outside to watch the fireworks. I started 2010 watching fireworks whilst standing barefoot on a sandy beach and I finished it wrapped up warm watching fireworks as the snow fell around me. Magical.
So that was 2010. If 2011 can be even half the fun that this year was then I’m in for a great time. This year has been one helluva ride. I think I need a lie-down before the next one starts, who knows where it’ll end??