Monday, December 11, 2006

An angel arrives….and off we fly

Gabriel was born exactly to schedule – on the 19th of January around midnight. He was a big fat healthy baby and we all breathed a sigh of relief as now we could really start the planning for our new life in Malaysia. We chose the name ‘Gabriel’ because we both liked it, and it was a classic name from both countries. Although it was pronounced in English with the emphasis on the Gabriel, whereas the French pronounced it more like Gabriel. I also realized belatedly that when the French say Gabriel it is sounds like the English girls name Gabrielle…but too late. Trying to find a name that fitted in both French/English cultures, and matched with Marc/Nina/Hauwaert had driven us mad in the days before he was born!

Just after Gabriel was born Jacques started his new job in KL, while I held the fort in England, with the help of my mum and Jacques mother who came to stay with me. As always when you have a new baby the other siblings look suddenly so big and grown-up. Marc had just had his 6th birthday and Nina was not far off four, but they looked so huge in size and ability to do things compared to the new baby. They were helpful and sang, made funny faces and kept an eye on Gabriel while I cooked. Gabriel smiled when they sang the classic French lullaby ‘Faire Dodo’, and that became his favourite song.

We decided to send a few things ahead of us to Malaysia and store the rest in France. Toys, kitchen stuff and summer clothes were boxed up and sent off in a container. When the boxes left we really felt like we were leaving. We picked April 6th as the day we would fly to KL, which was just before the school Easter break. They would start school a few days after we arrived in KL, when their jet-lag had won off, but then would have a two-week Spring break in May to compensate. We planned a goodbye party with a Chinese theme for 25 children. We hired a sports hall with a bouncy castle. I handed out invites with a Chinese mask for them to decorate and we made a Lion for a dance. Jacques came back from KL with sweets and little party-bag gifts of KL T-shirts and a mini Chinese drum. The party was great, and all the kids had a good time, although its not often you throw a goodbye party in England, so some children were not sure whether to bring a gift or not. We said no gifts, just come along and have some fun. In class each child drew a picture of for Marc and we pasted them into a book.

Friends gathered round to say goodbye and I felt a heavy sadness at leaving the mothers from Marc’s class who had shared the excitement of the first day of school together and the mother of one of Nina’s friend who had had her fourth baby the same time as me. We had a last pizza together and they presented me with a beautiful photo album. I knew I would miss their school-gate chatter and celebrating our kid’s birthdays together. Would I find friends like that in KL I wondered?

The last few days were a blur. My sister and her boyfriend, along with my parents and Jacques parents all pitched in to pack up our house. The van left around lunchtime and we spent the afternoon at my sister’s house, stunned at what was happening. As we arrived at the airport for the 10pm flight the tears came and we all got emotional. The kids clung on to their grandparents and aunt and we had to practically pull them away to catch the check-in deadline. With Gabriel fast asleep and blissfully unaware in his sling we checked in our numerous bags, the baby car seat and the pushchair. Luckily with the Iraq war going on and the SARS virus just beginning to send panic around the world the flight was unusually empty and we had more space than usual.

We spent all night and all of the next day on that airplane….hours and hours punctuated by eating, several films, or a quick nap when Gabriel dozed. Finally we arrived around 5pm local time in the middle of a huge storm. The plane shuddered as it landed, and we gazed out amazed to see palm trees bending in the winds and lighting flashing overheard. We stepped off the plane to walk through the modern gleaming new airport, listening to all the chatter around us in Bahasa Malay, Hindu and Chinese…what a wonderful mixture. The air was steamy and warm and we quickly took off our London layers and climbed into our waiting taxi. ‘Welcome to Malaysia!’ the signs said, and as we approached the city we saw the shining lights of the Petronas Towers and knew we had arrived.

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