Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Marc had a wonderful teacher in Year Two, a young bright lively woman who could easily control the male-majority class of five and six-year-olds. Miss. Butler read chapters of Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and other stories to the rapt kids each day. This would lead to Marc having a long-term love of Dahl’s writing and poems. His spelling and reading level improved and he was praised for his building and technical skills. Miss. Butler didn’t see Marc’s two languages as a problem and he thrived in her classroom.

Nina was settled in her pre-school too. Her teacher had a French mother and we chatted about France regularly. One of Nina’s friends had a French mother too, and praised us for keeping the French going because in her family the dominant language had been English, and the French sidelined. At the weekly playgroup I had a French friend, who was married to an Englishman, and we compared notes on our children. Finally I felt like the children and me could relax about being bilingual and stop worrying what people thought. We took pleasure in the small things in life…inviting friends over for tea, walks on the local common grassland, going to visit my parents and meeting up with my sister who lived nearby.

Life seemed rather too settled that autumn. There was no project on the horizon and even though Jacques kept looking at job vacancies he knew he needed a good two years experience first. But he still had an itch to be somewhere exciting again. Jacques was tired of the long commute into London and after getting the financial systems up and running in Europe he was looking for a challenge again. I was preparing for the new baby, which was predicted to arrive mid-January, but still would join him if an opportunity came up. We had decided not to buy a house and were still renting, which gave us the chance to be more flexible if something came up, and we were vaguely talking about moving in late 2003, after the baby was born, if something good came up….

At the end of October 2002 I went to Spain for a conference on Bilingualism. I called Jacques to wish him a happy wedding anniversary and he asked me what I thought about moving to Malaysia. The CFO of Asia was leaving and they needed a replacement fast. Jacques was an ideal choice, but would he move his two kids (in good schools) and wife (now 6 months pregnant) halfway around the world? Jacques needed my positive answer and support immediately. His senior was skeptical that his family would agree to such a major move. Unfortunately the other chap had had problems settling his family in Malaysia and was returning back home to Australia. We had to prove we would not do the same thing and would stay at least two years.

In that moment when a new job offer comes through you are spinning from sudden realization that what you wanted has just come true, alongside a strong feeling of regret that you have to leave the carefully crafted home and life you have right now. Stood in the public phonebox in Vigo I thought of the great school teachers, the groups of friends our children had, my family, my studies at Birkbeck University…. all pulling me to stay. While on the other hand the thrill of living in Kuala Lumpur tempted me too, with its warm tropical climate, the exciting cultural and linguistic mix of Muslim, Chinese and Indian people, a maid to help with the kids, a bigger house and holidays exploring Asia. By the time I arrived back in cold and miserable England I was thinking maybe yes…..

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