Friday, March 02, 2007

Christmas in the tropics

As Christmas approached we got a new maid. We needed someone full-time, and a live-in maid was cheaper than a part-time one. We had a spare room and I was having problems ushering out all the children in the morning and wanted someone to look after Gabriel while I did activities and school-runs with the other two. Jacques found an agency and chose one that looked cheerful. Imelda was in her late-thirties, but looked like a teenager (as Marc remarked to her one day). She was from the Phillipines, which I liked because my maid in Egypt had been sweet-natured and kind, and she was the youngest of twelve, which meant she was used to family life. Her CV said that she could speak English, could cook and had experience with babies. In the end Imelda (or Aimee as she called herself) came a few weeks early and we were rather unprepared and just about to leave for Thailand.

Christmas in the tropics is so different, even though there are the decorations and parties it is hard to believe it is that time of year. Without the chilly autumn air and dark evenings we still felt like we were in summer, although the calendar said December. We decided not to go back to Europe for Christmas, my sister was getting married in February and we would go back then. We bought a tiny plastic Christmas tree from Carrefour and some tacky house decorations, I had left all ours in storage in France and we had nothing. The condo had a potluck party and Jerome, dressed as a rather sweaty Santa, handed out gifts to all the delighted children. My only moment of sadness was when an English guest at the party brought in a fully dressed turkey with roast potatoes and cranberry sauce, and I felt suddenly homesick when I tasted it.

This Christmas was our first without either family and we decided we should go away. It could have been lonely, but we were occupied driving by car up north to Thailand and then finding our way to the island resort, Phuket. The atmosphere was so good there we really had fun. On Christmas Day Santa arrived with gifts for the children, riding on an elephant. There were parades and shows each night. The children still believed in Santa and were amazed to find gifts by their hotel beds. ‘How did he know?’ they asked each other. Later when we phoned home and reported there were more big things at home (bicycles) and they agreed it was totally normal for Santa to have left something back at the condo.

My English condo friend Vikki offered to look after Aimee while we were away. There were many horror stories of maids running off with the security guards, stealing the wife’s jewelry and even leaving children alone in the house. We left with some trepidation, but when we came back all was well and the house was spotless. Aimee settled in quickly. She had lived in KL for nine years, so knew her way around. She was a widow and was working to support her twelve-year-old son who lived with her sister.

We were back in KL in time for New Year and awaiting a visit from Nina’s godfather and his girlfriend in January. We could also start planning Marc’s 7th and Gabriel’s 1st birthdays. Marc wanted a science museum party. Gabriel happened to be born a day after Vikki’s son, McCaulay, who would be two on the 18th. We decided to do a joint barbecue party by the pool for the little boys.

No comments: